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Gay Montrealer denied insurance refund after cancelling tour to Russia

David Brody's insurance company has denied his claim because the government has not issued a travel warning

Montreal author David Brody has cancelled his trip to Russia because of that country’s new anti-gay law. But he'll have to pay for the cancellation.

Montreal author David Brody has cancelled his trip to Russia because of that country’s new law banning “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors.” However, since Foreign Affairs Canada has not issued an official advisory or warning to Canadian travelers, Brody’s insurance company will not reimburse his claim.

Brody, author of the 2009 book Mourning and Celebration: Jewish, Orthodox and Gay, Past & Present, says he booked his trip on June 6, but cancelled it after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the anti-gay bill into law on June 30.

Brody cites the recent deportation of four Dutch citizens who were filming a documentary about gay life in St Petersburg and Murmansk as one example of Russia targeting foreigners.  The filmmakers have been banned from Russia for three years and they were each fined 3,000 rubles (C$95). 

“My problem is I’ve published a gay book, a gay Jewish book, Mourning and Celebration, and if Russian authorities find out about it – all they have to do is Google me – they could treat it as homosexual propaganda,” says Brody. “Fearing for my safety, I felt I had no choice but to cancel my trip.”

Lufthansa airlines will reimburse most of the costs of the flight, but they are still making Brody pay a penalty of $450. However, the $1,000 Brody paid for a tour in Russia will not be refunded. The amount of his claim is $1,452.90.

Broady says the reason why La Capitale Insurance and Financial Services company has refused his claim is because the federal government has not issued a formal advisory or warning to Canadians going to Russia. Currently, Foreign Affairs Canada only advises “a high degree of caution” for those travelling to Russia.

But the insurance policy only allows for refundable cancellation when the Canadian government issues a “warning.”

La Capitale’s refusal states an “eligible” cause for cancellation or interruption is “terrorism or any other situation in the country to which the insured is travelling, provided the government of Canada issues a warning that Canadians should not travel in that country during the time of the planned trip and that the warning was issued after travel expenses were incurred.”

“We call on the Canadian government to issue a formal advisory or warning as soon as possible to prevent LGBT Canadians from suffering similar financial consequences of homophobia in foreign lands,” says Fo Niemi, executive director of the Montreal-based Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR).

“Ottawa should also undertake all necessary measures to protect Canadian business people, workers, and students going to Russia. Our bilateral trade and cooperation with Russia is significant but Canadians should not be put at risk because of this law,” Niemi says, adding, “John Baird said a couple of things to this effect in parliament, but unless Foreign Affairs Canada issues a formal warning or advisory, we are technically in a grey zone.”

Says Brody, “I am relieved that I am not going to Russia, I cannot imagine how dangerous it can be to live as a gay person in Russia today, and I cannot accept that my government and my insurance company refuse to recognize my right to life and my right to the security and integrity of the person.”

Brody is considering suing La Capitale for his refund with assistance from CRARR.