Canadian organizations issue open letter to demand action on Russia's antigay laws

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      Over 100 Canadian organizations have signed an open letter demanding action on Russia's antigay legislation. (For more on this story, see this article.)

      Here is a copy of the letter.


      August 22, 2013


      The Right Hon. Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada
      The Hon. John Baird, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada
      The Hon. Bal Gosal, Minister of State for Sports of Canada
      The Hon. Chris Alexander, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration of Canada

      Mr. Jacques Rogge, President, International Olympic Committee
      Sir Philip Craven, President, International Paralympic Committee
      Mr. Marcel Aubut, President, Canadian Olympic Committee
      Mr. Gaétan Tardif, President, Canadian Paralympic Committee

      Mr. Hubert Lacroix, President, CBC/Radio-Canada

      Mr. Muhtar Kent, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Coca-Cola Company
      Mr. Thierry Breton, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Atos
      Mr. Andrew N. Liveris, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Dow
      Mr. Jeff Immelt, Chief Executive Officer, GE
      Mr. Don Thompson, President and CEO, McDonalds
      Mr. Stephen Urquhart, President and CEO, Omega
      Mr. Kazuhiro Tsuga, President, Panasonic
      Mr. A.G. Lafley, Chairman of the Board, President and Chief Executive Officer, P&G
      Mr. Oh-Hyun Kwan, Vice-Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Samsung
      Mr. Charles Scharf, Chief Executive Officer, VISA

      Dear Sirs:

      We, the undersigned Canadian civil society organizations, call upon you to stand against the rising tide of hate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Russia, by taking the actions listed below. We are deeply troubled by the ongoing and intensifying attacks against LGBT, not least those led and encouraged by President Vladimir Putin and the federal Parliament (Duma). These actions include, most recently, the unanimous adoption of a federal law banning the distribution of “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” (Federal Law № 135-FZ of June 29, 2013).

      This law means LGBT people risk prosecution simply for exercising their freedom of expression and association, as does anyone who defends the human rights of LGBT people or even mentions the existence of LGBT people in an approving fashion. Attending an LGBT event could be illegal. Challenging the harassment or assault of LGBT students in a school or declaring that it’s perfectly legitimate to be LGBT could amount to “gay propaganda” under the wording of the law.

      Individuals can be fined up to 100,000 rubles (about US$ 3000) for using the media or Internet to “promote non-traditional relations.” Organizations can be fined up to 1 million roubles (about US$ 30,000) and closed down for up to 90 days. The law authorizes police officers to arrest foreign nationals they suspect of being LGBT or “pro-gay” and jail them for up to 15 days before expelling them from the country. Russian officials have already arrested gay foreigners.

      There have been other recent legislative and physical assaults on LGBT people in Russia. Moscow’s city government has banned Pride parades for 100 years, which the European Court of Human Rights has declared violates the European Convention on Human Rights. As a precedent for the federal law recently adopted by the Duma, the city of St. Petersburg has enacted a ban on “homosexual propaganda,” as have numerous regions. Russia has also banned adoption of children by any parents from nations that grant equal marriage rights to same-sex couples.

      The latest “anti-propaganda” law is part of a much broader, ongoing attack to shut down civil society, including a series of laws that violate freedoms of assembly, association, expression and information, not just for LGBT people but for a whole range of communities and human rights defenders. Homophobia is another weapon being deployed in a broader effort to stifle a free, open, democratic society. Targeting a group to be scapegoated is aimed at weakening any civil society opposition and
      maintaining control.

      Such legislative hate-mongering does indeed foment further abuses. Anti-LGBT violence is rampant and worsening in Russia. Earlier this summer, a violent mob attacked a small group of LGBT rights demonstrators in St. Petersburg. LGBT youth and adults are being assaulted and tortured by thugs who then broadcast video recordings of these attacks online. So far, Russian authorities have turned a blind eye to such hate crimes, even though some perpetrators are easily identifiable. In a recent incident, two attackers savagely beat a man, crushing his ribs, sodomizing him with beer bottles and attempting to burn him alive, after they learned of his sexual identity. They declared that it was their “patriotic duty to kill a gay man.”

      Twenty years ago, at the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights, Russia joined with other countries in declaring that the protection and promotion of human rights “is the first responsibility of Governments.” Yet in this climate of state-sponsored hatred and violence, Russia will host the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi in February 2014. The Russian government’s active persecution of LGBT people flies in the face of not just international human rights law but the ostensible spirit of the Olympic Games. The international community, those countries and organizations participating in the Games, and those corporations profiting from the Games, cannot stand idly by in the face of statesponsored terror against millions of its own people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender and against their partners, families, friends and loved ones.

      Therefore, in solidarity with our LGBT brothers and sisters in Russia, we call upon the Government of Canada, the International and Canadian Olympic Committees, as well as corporate sponsors and media broadcasters of the Sochi Winter Olympics, to take action as follows:

      • The Government of Canada should:
      o continue to speak out publicly against Russia’s anti-gay legislation and homophobic and transphobic violence being visited upon LGBT people in Russia, and continue to communicate its objections directly to Russian authorities at the highest levels;
      o add the sponsors of anti-LGBT legislation in Russia to the list of those banned from obtaining visas to enter Canada;
      o identify opportunities to proactively support LGBT rights advocates in Russia in defending basic human rights;
      o oppose the “traditional values” resolution being advanced by Russia at the UN, which is a patent attempt to cloak bigotry and hate in the legitimacy of a Human Rights Council resolution; and
      o use this opportunity to publicly announce its commitment to ongoing support for the UN’s recently launched “Free and Equal” initiative for LGBT rights.

      • The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and International Paralympic Committee (IPC)
      o host Pride House in Sochi during the 2014 Winter Olympics and Paralympics;
      o speak out during the opening and closing ceremonies of the Games against anti-LGBT violence and against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, including legislative discrimination such as Russia’s; and
      o include explicit reference in their respective Charters to discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity as incompatible with the Olympic and Paralympic Movements, as is already done with grounds such as race, gender and religion. (We note and welcome that the Paralympic Movement has already included sexual orientation.)

      • The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC) have authority over Canada’s representation at the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The leadership and athletic delegations of the COC and CPC should:
      o publicly and privately support, without reservation, any individual athletes, whether they identify as LGBT or not, who choose to use their opportunities at the Games (e.g., when accepting medals) to display their support for the rights of LGBT people;
      o issue a statement condemning homophobic laws and anti-LGBT violence in Russia;
      o participate visibly as the Canadian delegation in the Sochi Winter Pride events being organized by Russian LGBT activists;
      o offer to join the IOC and IPC in hosting Pride House at the Games; and
      o use the opening and closing ceremonies of the Games to visibly support LGBT human rights as a country delegation.

      Corporate sponsors of the Sochi Games, including the top 10 sponsors named above, should:
      o publicly state their opposition to Russia’s homophobic legislation and anti-LGBT violence in Russia;
      o withdraw their sponsorship of the Games unless the Russian government abolishes the “anti-propaganda law” and guarantees freedom of expression, association, assembly and information, including for LGBT people; and
      o publicly redirect a significant portion of those sponsorship funds, through independent foundations and multilateral initiatives, to support the defense and promotion of LGBT rights, and human rights more broadly, in Russia.

      • The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), as exclusive Canadian broadcaster of the Sochi Games, should:
      o commit to reporting, before, during and after the Sochi Games, on human rights abuses in Russia, including against LGBT people, other minorities and political dissidents targeted by the Russian government.

      Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
      ARC International
      Egale Canada

      Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC)
      ACCM (AIDS Community Care Montreal)
      Action Canada for Population and Development (ACPD)
      Action positive VIH/sida
      African and Caribbean Council on HIV/AIDS in Ontario (ACCHO)
      AIDS Committee of Guelph & Wellington County
      AIDS Committee of Newfoundland & Labrador
      AIDS Committee of Ottawa
      AIDS Committee of Simcoe County
      AIDS New Brunswick, Inc.
      AIDS Saint John
      AIDS Vancouver Island
      AIDS-Free World
      BC Civil Liberties Association
      BC Coalition of People with Disabilities
      Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention (Black CAP)
      Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies
      Brockville Pride, Fight Homophobia & Transphobia in Brockville
      CACTUS Montréal
      Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network (CAAN)
      Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange
      Canadian Anthropology Society
      Canadian Association of Nurses in AIDS Care (CANAC)
      Canadian Association of University Teachers
      Canadian Federation for Sexual Health
      Canadian Harm Reduction Network
      Canadian Labour Congress
      Canadian Public Health Association
      Canadian Treatment Action Council (CTAC)
      Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)
      Canadian Working Group on HIV and Rehabilitation (CWGHR)
      Canadians United against Discrimination at the 2014 Sochi Olympics
      Casey House Hospice
      CAW Canada
      Central Alberta AIDS Network Society
      Centre for Inquiry Canada
      COCQ-SIDA (Coalition des organismes communautaires québécois de lutte contre le sida)
      Dream Bridge Exchange
      Equal Marriage For Same-Sex Couples
      Equitas - International Centre for Human Rights Education
      Feminist Alliance in Solidarity for Sex Workers' Rights
      FIRST Decriminalize Sex Work
      Gerald and Maas
      Grandmothers Advocacy Network (GRAN)
      HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario
      HIV North Society
      HIV/AIDS Regional Services
      Institute for International Women's RightsManitoba Inc.
      Inter Pares
      Interagency Coalition on AIDS and Development (ICAD)
      Jer's Vision
      Lucky Iron Fish Project
      M.A.IN.S. (Mouvement d'Aide et d'INformation Sida)
      Méta d'Âme
      Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic
      Northern HIV and Health Education Society
      Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project (NSRAP)
      Ontario Aboriginal HIV/AIDS Strategy
      Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL)
      Ontario HIV Treatment Network
      Ontario Humanist Society
      OPSEU Rainbow Alliance
      Our City of Colours
      Out On The Shelf
      Pacific AIDS Network
      Parksville/Qualicum KAIROS
      Peel HIV/AIDS Network
      PFLAG Canada
      PFLAG Canada, Brockville
      PFLAG Canada, Durham region
      Portail VIH/sida du Québec
      Positive Living Society of British Columbia
      Pride Toronto
      Queer Ontario
      Rainbow Health Network
      Reclaim Our Democratic Canada
      REZO, health and well-being of gay and bisexual men
      Saskatchewan Public Health Association
      Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
      Conference of the Canadian Bar AssociationStella, l'amie de Maimie
      The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO)
      The Fort McMurray LGBTQmunity
      The Legal Clinic of Guelph and Wellington County
      The McLeod Group
      The Toronto Sisters, Abbey of the Divine Wood
      The United Church of Canada
      Toronto PFLAG, Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays
      Toronto Queer Arts Festival
      Toronto Queer West Arts Centre
      Unit for Critical Research in Health (UCRH), School of Nursing, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Ottawa
      United Steelworkers
      University of Guelph
      University of Ottawa Research Chair in Forensic Nursing
      Vancouver AIDS Society
      Vancouver Island Persons Living with HIV/AIDS Society (VPWAS)
      Vanier Community Service Centre
      West Coast Women’s Legal Education & Action Fund (West Coast LEAF) 
      Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund
      WorldPride 2014 Human Rights Conference 
      YouthCO HIV & Hep C Society

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      Aug 24, 2013 at 12:00pm

      Hi people!
      I'm from Russia. Sorry for my english.
      So, I just want to tell you that so-call antigay law does not prohibit "promote non-traditional relations". This law prohibit "promote non-traditional relations to a minors"! The minors doesn't have adult mind(psychology) and they are influenced to ideas and much more to suppression of the mind from sexual desire and eventually to defective personal development.
      With respect, Seva, Moscow.


      Aug 24, 2013 at 1:23pm

      Demand away.


      Aug 24, 2013 at 7:21pm

      @Blah....and your point is?


      Aug 25, 2013 at 11:33am

      Leave Russia alone.
      Try to concenrate on your own problems - for example how Canadian senators spending your tax dollars for their personal business. Government would love you forget those inconvinient issues and concentrate on something else, like the Russian laws...


      Aug 25, 2013 at 5:43pm

      Good for you! Proud of you for taking a stand. My fervent wish is that no one shows up for these games. It's all about the money.i love the Olympics, but they will not be watched or supported in any way this year. No freedom til all are free...

      Brian Collinson

      Aug 26, 2013 at 5:24am

      Any person of integrity who is concerned about human rights should be supporting this petition. The Putin regime is scapegoating LGBT people, much in the manner that Hitler scapegoated Jews. All people of goodwill need to stand against this vile law, regardless of sexual orientation, because the violation of the human rights of one group just opens the door further for the violation of the human rights of all.