During the 1950s and 1960s, some otherwise freedom-loving governments waged secret wars against suspected homosexuals within their borders. During those years, Canada’s campaign to eliminate all homosexuals from the military, police, and the civil service was particularly broad and unforgiving, with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) compiling files on over 9,000 suspected homosexuals. Reports indicate that the RCMP created Security Service subsection A-3 in the 1950s, whose sole purpose was the identification and dismissal of every gay person in public service.
Perhaps the most disturbing element of their campaign was a government-owned device known only as the “Fruit Machine.” It resembled a dentist’s chair, but it also had various sensors, a camera to monitor the pupils, and a black box situated in front of the subject to display pictures. Subjects were told that the machine was used for measuring stress, yet its purpose was something else entirely; it was intended to identify whether the subject was gay.
A series of images would display on the monitor as the subject’s pupils, perspiration level, and heart rate were monitored for involuntary “erotic response.” Some images were mundane, while others were sexually explicitly photos of men and women. If the machine detected erotic response to certain images, the subject was assumed to be a homosexual.
In Britain, the term “fruit machine” is another term for the slot machines used in gambling. Given the questionable science and unreliability at work in Canada’s sinister fruit machine, theirs had more in common with its British namesake than it did with any actual scientific measuring devices. Yet the results of the fruit machine tests were used to fire thousands of people over the years.
The fruit machine was in use until the late 1960s when the government pulled all funding for the project. However that did not mark the end of the efforts to remove homosexuals from government service, and the RCMP continued to compile dossiers on suspected gays for years. A similar device called a plethysmograph, which connected directly to the subject’s genitals, was used for similar purposes after the fruit machine was retired, but the Canadian government eventually put a halt to the RCMP’s anti-homosexual activities. Plethysmographs are still in use today in investigating suspected pedophiles, but their accuracy is highly controversial.