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Canada: Vancouver Mayor attacks Russia over anti-gay laws ahead of Winter Olympics

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The mayor of Vancouver has spoken out to heavily criticise the recent introduction of Russian anti-gay laws ahead of the Winter Olympics to be held in Sochi in 2014.

Mayor Gregor Robertson joined the debate around the issue, which has already seen international boycotts of Russian vodka brands, and much controversy in LGBT groups.

“As host Mayor of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, I have been alarmed to learn of further discriminatory legislation and violent actions targeting the LGBTQ community in Russia ahead of the upcoming 2014 Games in Sochi,” a statement from the mayor reads.

“It is clear to me that the Russian parliament’s homophobic assault on the fundamental human rights of the LGBTQ community will prevent many of these individuals from safely and openly participating in Sochi.”

Vancouver Pride Parade this Saturday will be joined by the Canadian Olympic Team, which also attended Toronto Pride earlier this year.

In a specially prepared editorial for Vancouver Pride, the team writes: “For many LGBT athletes, discrimination, shame and a life of silence is a common reality both in and out of competition. Why do we march? We march to remember and we march to progress.”

President Vladimir Putin signed the controversial law last month banning the promotion of “non-traditional relationships” toward minors, a move that has been criticised as part of a broader crackdown on Russia’s gay community. British campaigners have likened the law to Section 28, a now repealed ban on the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality in schools or by local authorities.

Earlier this month, speaking exclusively to PinkNews, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg urged Russia to protect the rights of LGBT citizens following concerns about gay athletes and spectators attending the 2014 Winter Olympics.

He said: “Those days should be long behind us now and for those countries and those governments and regimes who don’t see it that way I think they have to move with the times.”

A number of British and American gay bars have said that they will boycott Russian vodka. One of the most popular Russian sourced vodkas, Stoli, has criticised the anti-gay policies of the Russian government.

Some campaigners have called for a boycott of the Winter Olympics.

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