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Baird denounces Russia’s anti-gay law in lead-up to Sochi Olympics

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird.


Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister has written to his Russian counterpart to denounce that country's anti-gay law as Canadian athletes prepare for the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.

"In the lead-up to Sochi, Canada remains concerned about the legislation passed in June 2013 that places a ban on the 'propagandizing of non-traditional sexual relations among minors,'" John Baird wrote earlier this month in a letter to Sergey Lavrov, the Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Russian Federation.

"We encourage the Russian Federation to extend to all of its citizens – as well as foreign visitors – full human rights protections, including freedom from violence, harassment or discrimination based on sexual orientation," wrote Mr. Baird in the letter that was obtained by The Globe and Mail and other news outlets.

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The law calls for the prosecution of those who express pro-gay views. Gay-pride events are prohibited and it is illegal to provide information about homosexual relationships to minors. Foreigners who are found to have participated in those crimes could be subject to fines and could spend as many as 15 days in a Russian jail.

Mr. Baird was quick to voice condemnation when Russia brought in the legislation last summer, as was Prime Minister Stephen Harper who said: "Our position is that we don't imprison or kill people for acts committed freely between adults."

There have been ongoing concerns about the ramifications for athletes and spectators attending the Games.

Mr. Baird said in his letter to Mr. Lavrov that Canada has developed a comprehensive consular strategy to manage any issues that may come up and he hopes that he can count on Russia's co-operation. "We are confident," wrote Mr. Baird, "that the Russian government will allow speedy and regular access to any Canadian citizen, should the need arise."

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