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North Island Canadian Armed Forces 2SLGBTQ+ member testifies

Experiences of an armed forces sergeant heard by committee
DIRECT IMPACT: North Island – Powell River MP Rachel Blaney invited sergeant Nina Usherwood, a transgender Canadian Armed Forces member from the North Island, to testify in Ottawa about her experiences in the armed forces.

A North Island Canadian Armed Forces member has given testimony in Ottawa about her experiences as a transgender member of the service.

According to a media release, the House of Commons standing committee on veterans affairs tabled a report on their study of fairness in the services offered to Francophone, women and 2SLGBTQ+ veterans.

Sergeant Nina Usherwood testified at the invitation of North Island – Powell River MP Rachel Blaney, NDP critic for veterans affairs and member of the Committee, about Usherwood’s experiences in the Canadian Armed Forces.The release stated that Usherwood’s testimony had a direct impact on shaping three of the 11 recommendations contained in the committee’s report. These include: further education for Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) employees on the unique challenges, trauma, and needs faced by 2SLGBTQ+ veterans; better data collection tools to allow self-identification by 2SLGBTQ+ veterans; that VAC expand the office of women and 2SLGBTQ+ veterans to better address systemic issues faced by those veterans., according to the release.“It is clear that members of the 2SLGBTQ+ military community continue to face bureaucratic obstacles during their transition to civilian life as a direct result of a lack of understanding at veterans affairs about the LGBT purge and their unique needs,” stated Blaney. “I am grateful to sergeant Usherwood for her bravery in talking openly about her personal matters at committee.” 

The release stated that between the 1950s and mid-1990s, 2SLGBTQ+ members of the Canadian Armed Forces, the RCMP and the federal public service were systematically discriminated against, harassed, and often fired as a matter of policy and sanctioned practice. In what came to be known as the LGBT purge, people were followed, interrogated, abused and traumatized by their own government, the release stated.

“Veterans affairs must immediately review and implement the recommendations contained in the report in order to offer fair service delivery to all members of the military,” stated Blaney. “Anything less will be a slap in the face to Canadians who have served their country at risk of their lives.” View Usherwood's testimony here.