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


by Craig Takeuchi on Aug 23, 2013


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 state sponsored 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:

  1. 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;
  2. add the sponsors of anti-LGBT legislation in Russia to the list of those banned from obtaining visas to enter Canada;
  3. identify opportunities to proactively support LGBT rights advocates in Russia in defending basic human rights;
  4. 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
  5. 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) should:

  1. host Pride House in Sochi during the 2014 Winter Olympics and Paralympics;
  2. 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
  3. 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:

  1. 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;
  2. issue a statement condemning homophobic laws and anti-LGBT violence in Russia;
  3. participate visibly as the Canadian delegation in the Sochi Winter Pride events being organized by Russian LGBT activists;
  4. offer to join the IOC and IPC in hosting Pride House at the Games; and
  5. 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:

  1. publicly state their opposition to Russia’s homophobic legislation and anti-LGBT violence in Russia;
  2. 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
  3. 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:

  • 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

You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at You can also follow the Straight’s LGBT coverage on Twitter at


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