Alida Satalic is awaiting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s apology to LGBT people persecuted in Canada for good reason: Satalic was forced to resign from her military post after her sexuality came to light in the 1980s.
Satalic originally trained as a truck mechanic before becoming a clerk in the Canadian Forces Postal Service. She had a girlfriend who wasn’t in the Forces, but they had to keep their relationship secret. “You just don’t talk about it with your colleagues at work,” she told CBC News. “Everything was a lie, really, in your personal life.”
Despite her secrecy, the Canadian Forces special investigations unit discovered Satalic was a lesbian. She was applying for security clearance but, after months of questioning and having to undergo a medical examination, they told her there’d be no consequences.
“It was a relief. I thought, ’Oh yeah, I can be myself finally,” she says. “’They know—it’s great. And I still have my job.'”
But, soon after, she was told she was no longer eligible for further training or promotion and that her only choice was to ask for a medical discharge. She left the service in 1989.
“I opted for release, you know, with prejudice. I didn’t agree, but you know, how could I stay?” she said. .”I was just kind of an angry person for a while. It’s kind of like you were innocent and somebody took that away.”
Canada lifted its ban on gays in the military in 1992 and, two years later, she rejoined the service in another clerical position. But the scars of her experience remained.
“You see people that started after you now being ahead of you. That didn’t sit quite right,” she recalls. “Why am I paying for this?”
She became the lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit on behalf of all military members who served from 1969 to 1995. It was later merged with another suit on behalf of civil servants who also faced harassment because of their sexual orientation. The government recently struck a deal with plaintiffs in the case to both provide compensation and fund efforts to educate Canadians about this chapter in LGBT history.
Prime Minister Trudeau’s apology was fueled by the suit, and Satalic says she’s looking forward to hearing it “as long as it’s a sincere apology.”
“Lesbian and gay people today, they haven’t had to deal with any of this stuff,” she added. “It’s okay to be who you are now. So it’s going to teach people something.”