Action for LGBT Rights in Russia – Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network request for endorsements

Canadian HIV Legal Network

Dear human rights ally,

Worldwide momentum is building against Russia’s hateful laws against LGBT people and the brutal homophobic violence they are fuelling.  The upcoming Winter Olympics/Paralympics in Sochi are helping to shine a spotlight on this human rights crisis, and they create an opportunity for sustained pressure to defend and advance basic human rights, not just for LGBT people but for all Russians living in an increasingly dictatorial society.


Are you a Canadian civil society organization that cares about human rights?  Please sign on to the following open letter to the Canadian government, Olympic committees, and Olympic corporate sponsors condemning these flagrant and tragic abuses (online at


Please email Gilleen at [email protected] with your organization’s name by MONDAY, AUGUST 12.  If your organization has an official French name, please also provide it in full.


We are looking for support from a wide range of organizations, to show the breadth of concern and support across Canada.  As long as your organization is committed to basic human rights, please add your voice.  (Please note that we are only asking for organizations to sign on, as we cannot manage thousands of individual signatures.  But as an individual, please take action by sharing this appeal through your networks.)


It is time for a unified set of demands to all key actors who have some power and some responsibility to defend human rights.  We welcome the ongoing efforts of Canada’s foreign affairs minister in speaking out against anti-LGBT hatred in Russia (see his interview in The Globe and Mail:  But the Canadian Olympic Committee and International Olympic Committee have been shamefully silent or inadequate in their response.


We must keep up and expand the pressure as we support our LGBT brothers and sisters in Russia and around the world.  The world is watching as the Olympic Games approach.  We need to seize this opportunity.


In solidarity,


Richard Elliott, Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
Helen Kennedy, Egale Canada
Kim Vance, ARC International







August 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

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 Duma. These actions include, most recently, the unanimous adoption on June 29th of a federal law banning the distribution of “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations.”


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 (US$ 30,000) and closed down for up to 90 days. The law authorizes police officers to arrest tourists and foreign nationals they suspect of being LGBT or “pro-gay” and detain them for up to 15 days before expelling them from the country. Russian officials have already arrested gay tourists.


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. The city of St. Petersburg has enacted a ban on “homosexual propaganda.” Russia has 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:

  • 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;
  • add the sponsors of anti-LGBT legislation in Russia to the list of those banned from obtaining visas to enter Canada;
  • identify opportunities to proactively support LGBT rights advocates in Russia in defending basic human rights;
  • 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
  • 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:

  • host Pride House in Sochi during the 2014 Winter Olympics and Paralympics;
  • 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
  • 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:

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

  • publicly state their opposition to Russia’s homophobic legislation and anti-LGBT violence in Russia;
  • 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
  • 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
…and more being added

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