The federal New Democratic Party is calling on the government to take action on LGBT rights in Russia and is taking to the streets to build support for a visa ban on Russian legislators responsible for the recent homophobic laws passed in the Russian Duma.
The NDP launched its campaign with a petition-signing event at the Alexander Wood statue on the corner of Church and Alexander streets Sept 21.
The NDP’s foreign affairs critic, Paul Dewar, Toronto Centre candidate Linda McQuaig, Toronto-Danforth MPP Peter Tabuns, and defeated Toronto Centre nominee Jennifer Hollett all braved the rain to tell people about Russia’s recently passed laws banning “gay propaganda” and newly proposed laws threatening to take children away from LGBT parents.
While much of the attention on LGBT rights in Russia stems from the country’s upcoming hosting of the Winter Olympics in Sochi next year, Dewar says that the NDP is opposed to a boycott of the Games.
“The grassroots activists on the ground in Russia have been saying please don’t call for a boycott because we want this to be about LGBT rights not about the Olympics,” he says. “We need to see people speaking out, not just when there’s a flashpoint as in the case of Russia/Sochi; it has to be ongoing. This should be something we remember for every Olympics. This is an opportunity for the world to celebrate excellence but also excellence in human rights.”
Hollett, who was working at a girls’ rights summit in Russia earlier this summer, says that it’s important for Canadians to take a stand for rights in places where free expression is dangerous.
“When you’re in Russia, even when you’re just talking about human rights and gay rights, you kind of look around and think a claw is going to come down, grab you and eject you from the country,” she says. “Part of the reason I’m out here in the rain getting signatures for LGBT rights in Russia is because Russians can’t do that. I think there’s a responsibility for global citizens to stand up and fight for human rights, especially for those who can’t.”
The NDP says it collected about 200 signatures at the event.