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Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird is facing criticism from a privately funded, socially conservative group for his defence of gay rights abroad.

HASAN JAMALI/ASSOCIATED PRESS

A right-wing women's group is attacking Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird for defending the civil rights of gays abroad, suggesting the Tory MP is out of step with "conservative values" and the grassroots within his own party.

REAL Women of Canada, a self-described "pro-family conservative women's movement," has from time to time been an ally of the Harper government. It for instance cheered the Conservatives' decision to scrap a daycare program created by former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin.

On Wednesday, however, REAL Women issued a press release excoriating Mr. Baird for recent actions including his strong criticism last week of Russia's new controversial anti-gay law.

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It recounted the Foreign Affairs Minister's past efforts to defend gay rights abroad, including his criticism of Uganda, in October, 2012, when he denounced the African country for its oppression of homosexuals. Back then, Mr. Baird pointed to the case of David Kato, a Ugandan gay rights activist who was beaten to death after a newspaper published a photo of him and other gay men under the headline "Hang them."

The group also slammed Mr. Baird for allowing the Department of Foreign Affairs to provide $200,000 to groups in Uganda and the region to fight anti-gay measures.

Gwendolyn Landolt, national vice-president of REAL Women, accused Mr. Baird of being at odds with the conservative movement in Canda.

"Just who does John Baird think he is, using taxpayers' money to promote his own personal agenda and endeavouring to set standards of the laws of foreign countries?" she said.

"He argues that homosexual rights are a 'Canadian value,' but this applies only to himself and his fellow activists and the left-wing elitists. These are not conservative values and that of grass roots Canadians, who after all, pay the bulk of the taxes."

A spokesman for Mr. Baird rejected Ms. Landolt's criticism.

"This is not a left versus right issue. This is a position that is supported by a vast majority of Canadians," said Rick Roth, press secretary for Mr. Baird.

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"Canada believes that the criminalization of homosexuality is wrong, as is the suppression of fundamental rights like freedom of expression and freedom of speech. The expression of these rights should not be met with the death penalty, nor violence."

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