Honouring the Legacy: Canada Commemorates 2SLGBTQI+ Veterans of the First World War

Battle of Vimy Ridge Memorial © Courtesy of Veterans Affairs Canada

This April marked the 107th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, a significant chapter in global history. In commemoration, the Government of Canada led a groundbreaking initiative overseas. Beginning on April 6 in Belgium, a delegation of 2SLGBTQI+ Veterans representing Rainbow Veterans of Canada and the LGBT Purge—the first Veteran delegation of this kind—began a journey across the battlefields of Europe to commemorate the sacrifices and struggles of those who served.

This program followed in the footsteps of Frederick Hardy, a native of Brandon, Manitoba, who enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force in July 1915. After journeying from the farmlands of Manitoba to the battlefields of Europe, he served with the 8th Battalion during the First World War.

In July 1916, amidst the chaos of war, Frederick’s life took a tragic turn. Arrested for an act deemed “gross indecency with another male person,” he faced a court martial that exposed the systemic prejudices of the time. Despite his service and sacrifice, Frederick was sentenced to 18 months of hard labour. But Frederick’s story did not end in a prison cell.

Released to rejoin the fight, he stood once more on the front lines, resilient in the face of injustice. His ultimate sacrifice was on August 15, 1917, during the Battle of Hill 70, where he joined the ranks of countless others who gave their lives for a cause larger than themselves.

2slgbtqi+ veterans
© Courtesy of Veterans Affairs Canada
© Courtesy of Veterans Affairs Canada

This program highlighted an important historical moment for Veterans from the 2SLGBTQI+ community. On April 9, these Veterans saw Frederick Hardy’s name on the Canadian National Vimy Memorial for the very first time and were able to participate in the annual ceremony.

The delegation’s program in Belgium included visits to key commemorative sites, including the Passchendaele Canadian Memorial, St. Julien Canadian Memorial, and the John McCrae Memorial. They also attended the daily act of remembrance at the Menin Gate Memorial.

In France, the delegation visited the Hill 70 Memorial, where Frederick Hardy died in service, as well as the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial. The delegation then participated in a variety of commemorative activities at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial, including a guided tour of the visitor centre, tunnels, and trenches. Throughout the mission, the delegation shared stories of 2SLGBTQI+ soldiers who served in the First World War.

The Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence, joined the commemorative program on April 6 for a full day of activities in Belgium before returning to Canada.

In commemorating the stories of 2SLGBTQI+ Veterans like Frederick Hardy, Canada pays homage to the diversity of its armed forces and reaffirms its commitment to creating a more inclusive and equitable society. As they retraced the footsteps of those who came before, the delegation carried with them not only the weight of history but also the promise of a future where all individuals are recognized and respected for their service and sacrifice.

—Veterans Affairs Canada – Ottawa

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