NDP urges Baird to get tougher on Russia's anti-gay law
Published Friday, August 9, 2013 1:24PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, August 9, 2013 8:34PM EDT
As Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird expresses concern about Canadian athletes and spectators at the Sochi Winter Games in light of Russia’s anti-gay law, the NDP is urging a stronger response from the government.
During a conference call Friday, Baird told journalists that Ottawa is “obviously” concerned about Canadians who will be at the 2014 Games in Sochi.
"But we should be very clear: they're only going to be there two or three weeks. The people of Russia will have to deal with this law 365 days of the year, every year. Let's hope that decency will prevail,” he said.
Baird has condemned Russia’s new anti-gay law, which bans "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations.”
But NDP’s foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar says Baird should do more.
In a letter to Baird, Dewar called on the minister to institute a visa ban for the “originators of the law in question” and publicly endorse the United Nation’s “Free and Equal” campaign, aimed at fighting homophobia around the world.
“The Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development should also identify opportunities to support LGBT activists in Russia,” Dewar wrote.
Speaking in Miramichi, N.B., on Friday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Canadians expect their government to defend human rights around the world.
"I think it's important to recognize there are some controversies in this matter, but the reality is that our position is that we don't imprison or kill people for acts committed freely between adults," Harper said.
"We don't imprison people for their expressing political positions. I think our position in this regard represents the position of Canadians and they expect that we speak in favour of these rights."
Baird said he hopes the controversy will put pressure on Russia’s lawmakers and President Vladimir Putin.
“We've got an important opportunity for the free world to be able to focus on what's happening in Russia in the recent weeks and months, and hopefully that can yield a change,” he said.
Russia's sports minister has said that Olympians must respect the country's laws during the Sochi Games. He said Russia will not change the law.
IOC President Jacques Rogge said that Russia has provided written re-assurances about the law on Thursday, but his organization has asked for some clarifications.
During a news conference Friday, U.S. President Barack Obama also highlighted human rights issues in Russia as one of the reasons for the strained relations between the two countries.
Obama recently cancelled a planned meeting with Putin in Moscow partly because of Russia’s refusal to return National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden to America to face charges for releasing information about the U.S. government’s surveillance tactics.
With files from The Canadian Press