Canada’s queer silence

Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter states that "any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person.

Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter states that “any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.”

Russia is actually not one of the 83 countries that bans homosexuality. That law was repealed in 1993. But the anti-gay-propaganda law passed in June forbids Russians to talk openly and positively about being gay. Pride parades and protests are also now illegal, and queer groups can no longer work without fear of legal penalties. Russian officials say the law has been put in place “to protect children.” But it has emboldened right-wing groups who have made gay youth the targets of vicious attacks.

The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network has called on our government to add the names of the anti-gay Russian lawmakers to the list of those barred from obtaining visas to enter Canada. In a letter issued in August and endorsed by a number of human rights organizations, the network calls on corporate sponsors of the Games to support the defence and promotion of LGBT and human rights in Russia.

The Canadian Olympic Committee has stayed mum on Russia’s anti-propaganda law. In August, then executive director Dimitri Soudas said “it would be inappropriate” for the COC to take a stand on the political climate in Russia. He said it is the role of the Canadian government to comment on the politics of other countries.

The International Olympic Committee, the official governing body of the Games, has warned athletes that the Olympic Charter prohibits “making political gestures or statements” outside of “designated protest zones.” The Olympic Charter states, “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.” But the IOC has still not specified exactly what qualifies as “propaganda,” leaving athletes confused about what they can say during the 16-day event without being sent home or stripped of a medal.

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