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Government making ‘contingency plans’ for Olympics-goers

NDP calls on Conservatives to send dedicated representative for LGBT Canadians

The federal government will be providing assistance to Canadians who attend the Sochi Winter Games. Credit: Xtra file photo

Canada will be providing assistance to Olympics-goers who might find themselves ensnared in Russia's infamous anti-gay laws at the Sochi Winter Games.

With just 92 days left until the world heads to Russia, concerns are growing that the country's draconian laws could cause trouble for Canadians, even as the Russian government has tried to assuage fears. But Ottawa is looking to ensure that no problems arise at the event.

"Special contingency plans will be put in place, including extra capacity in both Ottawa and Moscow," said Adria Minsky, a spokesperson for Lynne Yelich, minister of state for consular affairs.

Minsky would not elaborate on what those plans entail.

The NDP has called upon the federal government to send a dedicated Canadian representative to deal with any problems that may arise for LGBT Canadians, in the face of harsh “anti-propaganda” laws implemented by President Vladimir Putin. It seems unlikely that that will happen, however.

"As with previous Olympic Games, we will increase our ability to provide consular services to Canadians at the Sochi Olympic Games," Minsky told Xtra via email. She would not comment as to whether or not a dedicated official would be sent.

Randall Garrison, NDP critic for LGBT affairs, says he spoke with Yelich and was told the government is not currently considering a dedicated consular official to deal with the issue.

The opposition critics for sport, foreign affairs and LGBT issues co-wrote a letter to Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird (who is not responsible for consular affairs) asking that a designated representative for LGBT issues be on hand at the games.

"By designating a consular official, the Conservatives can demonstrate a real commitment to making sure the Sochi Games are open to all Canadians, their families and supporters," foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar said in a statement.

With new legislation being implemented that would crack down on rallies or demonstrations before, during and after the Olympics, it seems quite possible that Canadians could find themselves in trouble with Russian authorities.

While Putin has swatted away concerns over the laws, insisting that they are not discriminatory, politicians from around the world have condemned his agenda. Baird called the laws "hateful" and said he hopes that the Games will put pressure on Putin to repeal them.

The NDP demanded that the minister go a step further and implement a visa ban on any of the authors of the original anti-gay legislation.

The Department of Foreign Affairs says it will be setting up a website to help Canadians who plan to make the trip to Sochi.