Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird called Russia’s anti-gay laws “hateful” and “mean-spirited” Aug 1 in an interview with the Canadian Press and said that he has met eight times with Russian officials over the past months, asking them to scrap the law.
Baird doesn’t believe that Canada should boycott the Sochi Winter Games; rather, it should use the opportunity to pressure Russia into greater tolerance for gay people.
"As concerned as we are about the Olympics, that's nothing. That's two, three, four weeks for the athletes and participants and the visitors," Baird said.
"This mean-spirited and hateful law will affect all Russians 365 days of the year, every year. It is an incitement to intolerance, which breeds hate. And intolerance and hate breed violence."
Baird’s comments followed statements from Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko Aug 1 that gay athletes will still be arrested if they “propagandize” their sexuality, despite assurances from the International Olympic Committee.
"No one is forbidding an athlete with non-traditional sexual orientation from coming to Sochi, but if he goes onto the street and starts propagandizing it, then of course he will be held accountable," Mutko told RIA Novosti.
Mutko’s statement confirms the opinion of Vitaly Milonov, a Russian lawmaker and co-sponsor of the anti-gay legislation, who said the laws would stay in effect during the Olympics. The law forbids anyone from promoting “non-traditional” relationships to minors, effectively banning all public speech about gay people. It also allows the detention of visitors suspected of pro-gay activities.
The International Olympic Committee tried to settle fears on July 26 when it told R-Sport that it had received “assurances from the highest level” that athletes and tourists would be safe from anti-gay laws.