Canada’s gay tests


In 1961, at the height of the Cold War, the Canadian government hired professor Frank Robert Wake to devise a scientific test to determine whether a person was gay.

At the time the view was that homosexuals suffered from a character weakness that could make them disloyal and easy to manipulate. In the United States, in the grips of McCarthyism, homosexuals were seen as communist sympathizers.

The Canadian government compiled a list of people alleged, suspected or confirmed to be gay.

Wake, who was the chair of Carleton University’s psychology department, was asked to devise an easy and cheap method for determining a person’s sexual orientation. He came up with the “fruit machine” – a collection of psychological tests including one designed to detect how a subject’s pupil responds to images of naked or semi-naked men and women.

It never worked, and the project was eventually abandoned. Hundreds of people were fired or demoted from positions in the military or civil service after taking such “tests”.