TORONTO, August 22, 2013 — In the wake of draconian new federal legislation and a “rising tide of hate” against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Russia, more than 100 Canadian organizations are demanding decisive action before, during and beyond the 2014Sochi Winter Olympics, in a joint letter released today (in English, French and Russian:

Addressed to the Canadian government, the Canadian and International Olympic and Paralympic Committees, the corporate sponsors of the Sochi Olympics, and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), the letter outlines a series of specific demands for action by each of these. The demands are designed to add to growing international pressure against Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian parliament (Duma), which earlier this year outlawed so-called “gay propaganda,” potentially outlawing any defense of LGBT rights and intensifying a tide of escalating violence against LGBT people in that country.

“We applaud Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird for already speaking out on this issue,” says Richard Elliott, executive director of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, one of the groups initiating the letter. He also welcomed the statement and letter issued by the Official Opposition supporting civil society’s demands for action.

“However, the Canadian government must go further, including by blocking visas for Russian legislators who sponsored the anti-LGBT measures and by decrying the actions of Putin and hisDuma at the highest international levels,” said Elliott. He noted the next G20 Summit is scheduled to be hosted by Russia in two weeks’ time in Saint Petersburg.

The groups say the Canadian government should identify ways to support proactively LGBT advocates in Russia in defending basic human rights. The open letter situates these latest developments as part of a larger, ongoing attack on human rights and civil society by the Putin government, with LGBT people another easy scapegoat to target.

The letter also exhorts the Canadian and International Olympic Committees to: condemn the antiLGBT laws and publicly support the human rights of LGBT people, including at the Sochi Games;to support, without reservation, athletes who speak out for LGBT rights at the Games; and to host a Pride House during the Winter Olympics.

“To date, the response of both the IOC and COC has been abysmal,” said Elliott. “They were well aware of these laws coming and, in light of the upcoming games in Sochi, have considerable influence on the Russian government. They could have helped prevent such hate, but didn’t, and so far have done virtually nothing to challenge and change it.”

Corporate sponsors of the Sochi Games are requested to condemn Russia’s homophobic laws and violence, withdraw their support unless the Russian government repeals its legislative attack, and redirect funds to support LGBT rights efforts. “Money talks,” said Tim McCaskell of AIDS ACTION NOW!. “Rather than being complicit with the Russian government’s hate-mongering, corporate sponsors have an opportunity to be socially responsible by actively supporting human rights.”

And to ensure that the Russian government can’t get away with using the Sochi Games to burnish its image internationally, the CBC, as exclusive Canadian broadcaster of the games, is being called on to spotlight human rights abuses in Russia, including against LGBT people, before, during and after the Olympics/Paralympics.

“The signatories to this letter show the breadth of concern and support across Canada, and echo the growing international outcry,” said Helen Kennedy, executive director of Egale Canada. “It is time for those key actors who hold positions of power and who profit from the Olympics to acknowledge their responsibility and defend human rights.”

Read the Letter here.



Gilleen Witkowski
Communications and Media Relations Officer
Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
416 595 1666 ext. 236 / 416 906 5554 (cell)