Think Queerly Podcast Leadership Interview | TQ237
It was an honour to speak with Michelle Douglas, Executive Director of the LGBT Purge Fund and a 30-year social justice and human rights activist.
I ask Michelle to start at the very beginning: why she decided to join the Canadian Military.
Michelle shares her story of what that was like, falling in love with another woman in her unit for the first time, being honourably discharged, and what happened after. Ironically, Douglas worked for the Canadian Department of Justice for many years, while working in advocacy to keep the government accountable.
She explains how in 2016, survivors of the LGBT Purge launched a nationwide class action lawsuit against the Canadian government. She was approached to manage the resulting settlement fund reached in 2018, and the rest is history.
We conclude the interview with a meaningful discussion about what or who she is most proud of over the last 30 years and why, if Queer people lead differently when they can authentically and vulnerably be who they are, and what advice she might give to an aspiring change-maker or activist wondering how to make a difference?
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About Michelle Douglas
Michelle is the Executive Director of the LGBT Purge Fund. She served as an officer in the Canadian Armed Forces from 1986 to 1989. She was honourably discharged from the military in 1989 under the military’s “LGBT purge”. She launched a landmark legal challenge against the military’s discriminatory policies against LGBT service members that resulted in the ending of Canada’s discriminatory policies in 1992. Her experience in the military was the start of 30 years of social justice and human rights activism.
Professionally, Michelle served as the Director of International Relations at the Canadian Department of Justice and retired in September 2019. Over the course of her 30-year career as a public servant, Michelle represented Canada at international meetings of the Commonwealth, the Organization of American States and the G7, and has travelled extensively in providing policy support to the Minister of Justice of Canada.
Michelle has also served on a number of boards of directors, including as chair of the board of directors of The 519 Community Centre and the Foundation for Equal Families. She has also been involved in supporting LGBT refugees. Michelle is also a member of the board of directors of the Michaëlle Jean Foundation.
Michelle holds a degree from Carleton University in Ottawa. Michelle was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012. She resides in Ottawa.
About the LGBT Purge Fund
Between the 1950s and mid-1990s, LGBT 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.
In 2016, survivors of the LGBT Purge launched a nationwide class action lawsuit against the Canadian government, and a historic settlement was reached in June 2018. As well as compensating survivors, this settlement allocated funds for reconciliation and memorialization measures.
The LGBT Purge Fund is a not-for-profit corporation that was set up to manage these funds. The Board is composed of six members and includes LGBT Purge survivors, class action plaintiffs and a representative of the legal team that challenged the Canadian government.
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