British Association for American Studies


Seminar: Gay Purges and the Canadian Department of External Affairs during the Cold War (UCL, Institute of the Americas)

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Seminar: Gay Purges and the Canadian Department of External Affairs during the Cold War (UCL, Institute of the Americas)

April 27, 2016 @ 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm

Apr 27, 2016 18:00-19:30 – UCL Institute of the Americas, 51 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PN

Dr Hector Mackenzie (Global Affairs Canada and Carleton University) – By a tortuous chain of illogic and prejudice, the principal targets of the security service of the Royal Canadian mounted Police during the Cold War were gay and lesbian public servants.  Presumptions were made about ‘character weakness’, vulnerability to entrapment or blackmail and consequently risk of betrayal, so that large numbers of loyal public servants were dismissed or purged without any evidence or even grounds for suspicion of unauthorized disclosure of government secrets to foreign (I.e. Soviet) agents.

This seminar highlights the past inattention of government to this terrible episode in Canada’s past (in contrast to the apparent willingness of the current Canadian government to acknowledge, apologize and perhaps compensate the victims and their families).  There is also an emphasis on the continuing research challenges associated with this subject, particularly surrounding access to files under the control of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Privy Council Office.  Above all, it is important to integrate this story with the post-war history of Canada, so that the potential lessons or warnings about abuse of power and denial of fundamental rights are not lost or obscured.

Hector Mackenzie is a graduate of the University of Toronto and Oxford University, from which he received his doctorate. He taught at the University of Toronto and the University of Western Ontario before he joined the Department of External Affairs as an historian.  Dr. MacKenzie has been the Senior Departmental Historian of what is now Global Affairs Canada since 1991.  In addition to editing two volumes in the series, Documents on Canadian External Relations, he has published numerous book chapters and articles on Canada’s international relations in the twentieth century, with a particular emphasis on the period from 1935 to 1957.  He is an Adjunct Research Professor in the Department of History of Carleton University, a past president of the Association for Canadian Studies, a member of the editorial board of the foreign service magazine bout de papier.

Refreshments available from 17:30 for a presentation start at 18:00. Attendance is free of charge but registration is required. IMPORTANT NOTE ON ACCESS TO 51 GORDON SQUARE: in order to ensure a smooth delivery of the lecture and for ease of logistics, access to the building may be restricted after the start of the event. We will endeavour to accommodate late arrivals within our possibilities, but an early arrival is recommended to avoid disappointment.

Free registration


April 27, 2016
6:00 pm - 7:30 pm
Event Category:


UCL Institute of the Americas
+44 (0)20 7679 2000
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UCL-Institute of the Americas
51 Gordon Square
London, WC1H 0PN United Kingdom
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020 7679 2000
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