TORONTO – A transgender support group in northern Ontario is honouring LGBTQ veterans on Remembrance Day for their sacrifices in past wars. 

Rita Olink, a member of the TG Innerselves group and chair of Northern Ontario Pride Network, will help lay a wreath with a Pride flag to honour LGBTQ veterans at the cenotaph at the Onaping Falls Community Centre in Sudbury, Ont., on Monday.

“We’ve lived in oppression for so long and it’s so nice to finally come out into the daylight and say ‘us too, we contributed to the freedom that everyone enjoys today,’” Olink told CTV News Channel Sunday. Olink had six family members – her father and five uncles – serve in the Second World War.

For soldiers stationed overseas in past wars, sending and receiving letters from loved ones was a routine, but Olink points out: “if you were gay, how could you possibly get a love letter from home? How could you even talk about your loved ones?”

“They served in silence, but they served,” she said. “They were wounded and they died just like everyone else. But they had to do so quietly.”

In November 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued an emotional apology in the House of Commons for the federal government’s past treatment of the LGBTQ community.

“It is with shame and sorrow and deep regret for the things we have done that I stand here today and say: We were wrong. We apologize. I am sorry. We are sorry,” said Trudeau.

TG Innerselves laid a wreath last year on Remembrance Day in honour of LGBTQ veterans for the first time. Olink hopes that it becomes a norm in the coming years.

“I’m looking forward to the day that this is a normal part of Remembrance Day ceremonies across Canada,” she said.