Film gives voice to Purge survivors

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In the not-too-distant past, thousands of Canadian men and women had their privacy invaded, their careers ruined, and their lives destroyed during a campaign waged against the LGBTQ community. Over the course of four decades, an attempt was made by the Canadian government to remove homosexuals from public service, under a disgraceful mandate using a “scientific” machine that was supposed to be able to identify gay men, derogatorily referred to as “fruits”.

During the Cold War, homosexuality was grounds for surveillance because members of the LGBTQ community were considered susceptible to blackmail by Soviet spies. Canadian Armed Forces members and federal employees suspected of being homosexuals were investigated by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and subjected to interrogation.

In the acclaimed documentary The Fruit Machine (there was indeed a “fruit machine”), LGBTQ survivors of the homosexual witch-hunt are given a voice as they seek justice—and closure—through decades of ignorance, during which they struggle to be heard.

“I’ve made this film, but sometimes when I think about it, it’s still hard for me to believe,” Sarah Fodey, the film’s director and producer, told the Maple Leaf. “I think we’re still naïve in Canada about a lot of things and this is one of them, that we wouldn’t be capable of such actions and such discrimination. But that’s clearly not the case.”

Produced by SandBay Entertainment in association with TVO, the film will be screened next week at Carling Campus. Purge survivors—many of whom have forged lasting relationships with Ms. Fodey—will take part in a panel discussion following the viewing. Ms. Fodey said she believes what gave the survivors their resilience to endure was the search for a resolution to their story.

“For some, that came in the form of an apology from our prime minister, which they found incredibly meaningful. And for others, it was the apology but also the settlement of the class action case. Many people fought for justice for years… one of the survivors in the film fought for justice for 40 years,” Ms. Fodey said, adding that the inner strength of the survivors, both those who appear on screen and those who spoke to her off-camera, was what made the biggest impact on her.

In November 2017, the Government of Canada earmarked more than $100 million to compensate members of the military and other federal agencies whose careers were sidelined or ended due to their sexual orientation.

Presented by CMP and ADM HR-Civ for Defence Team members, the theatre-style viewing of The Fruit Machine will be held on Tuesday, July 30, from 0900 to 1200 at Carling Campus Building 6. Space is limited to 120 seats. Please RSVP to

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