Canadian Foreign Minister urges Russia to drop anti-gay laws and protect human rights

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Ahead of February’s Sochi Winter Olympics, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has written to his Russian counterpart to denounce Russia’s anti-gay laws.

“In the lead-up to Sochi, Canada remains concerned about the legislation passed in June 2013 that places a ban on the ‘propagandizing of non-traditional sexual relations among minors,’” John Baird wrote earlier this month in a letter to Sergey Lavrov, the Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Russian Federation.

“We encourage the Russian Federation to extend to all of its citizens – as well as foreign visitors – full human rights protections, including freedom from violence, harassment or discrimination based on sexual orientation,” Mr Baird added.

Earlier in December, President Vladimir Putin defended Russia’s anti-gay laws by saying they protect against the “destruction of traditional values”.

A federal bill banning gay “propaganda” was signed into law by President Putin in June.

It prescribes fines for providing information about homosexuality to people under the age of 18 – ranging from 4,000 roubles (£78) for an individual to 1m roubles (£19,620) for organisations.

In August, Mr Baird branded the legislation “hateful”.

Canada has yet to name its Olympic delegation but Prime Minister Stephen Harper will not be attending the Winter Olympics.

US President Barack Obama, French President Francois Hollande, German President Joachim Gauck and UK Prime Minister David Cameron have all confirmed they will not be attending the Games.

Despite speculation, none have stated it is because of Russia’s anti-gay laws.

In December, a Downing Street source said David Cameron believed in “engagement” with Russia and that “he doesn’t think that boycotts and grand gestures achieve much”.

Although President Putin attended the London 2012 Olympics Games, previous UK prime ministers have not often attended the Winter Olympics – in part because Britain tends not to perform particularly well at winter sports.

PinkNews revealed recently that UK Sports Minister Helen Grant will attend the Winter Olympics. Mrs Grant is also a junior Equalities minister at the Government Equalities Office (GEO).