As Canadian citizens we enjoy a quality of life that few other places in the world can appreciate. This is our privilege, and one of the many reasons that a life in Canada is so coveted; we enjoy many rights and freedoms that are easy to take for granted. Canada has been a world leader when it has come to advancing not only human rights in general, but more specifically the rights of the LGBTIQ community.
The Winter Olympics has always been Canada’s time to shine. We all get excited when we watch Canada compete on a world stage in the sports we excel at best. They are a great teaching tool to teach kids about different nations and cultures, and there’s always a special thrill of excitement and national pride when the games come.
Russia, the next site for the Olympic Winter Games in 2014, is committing some horrible human rights violations. We cannot turn a blind eye to the plight of not only Russian citizens, but those citizens of other nations that are endangered by the anti-LGBT laws that have been created in this part of the world. We need to stand up and put pressure on them to change.
Calling for the Canadian Olympic Committee to withdraw the team from competition, and boycott Sochi 2014 is not intended to punish the Canadian athletes who have worked hard for this opportunity. It is our hope that Canadian Olympians will stand with us and speak out against these violations, and let the world know that we cannot in good conscience participate in these games if Russia insists on oppressing its citizens.
That is not the Canadian way.
The recent political climate in Russia has been appalling, taking steps backwards and eliminating equal rights for LGBTIQ Russians. They can no longer hold hands in public, talk about their lives in places where others might hear them, raise children or have families. If they are caught, they risk being assaulted and incarcerated. These are serious violations of their basic human rights and we as Canadians cannot stand idly by while this occurs.
Additionally, with the introduction of the new law, Russia is threatening to arrest any visitor or tourist who they deem to be homosexual or promoting “homosexual propaganda”. This law does not promote a safe environment for any LGBTIQ athlete to compete in, or for any visitors to come and support them.
The Olympic games are supposed to be a safe place for the world to come together in peace and kinship. It is unfair to expect our LGBTIQ athletes to hide who they are or put themselves at risk in order to compete, and it is equally unfair to ask that our other athletes stand by silently while this is happening. There have already been visitors to Russia who have been arrested under this horrible law. This goes beyond just our values; what Russia is doing is against the Olympic Charter.
Speaking to Global News on July 25, 2013, Mark Tewksbury said, “Playing sports is a human right regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation. And our number one priority right now is making sure our team is ready to compete – and win.”
We beg your pardon? We, as Canadians, do not think that should be our highest priority. Our Olympians are asked to hold true to the Olympic standards. They must be ambassadors of our values and our culture while they are at the games; values such as excellence, fun, fairness, respect, human development, leadership and peace. How can our Olympians stand tall and say they stand for these values when they go to compete in a host country which clearly does not? While they play their sports, there are Russian citizens being assaulted, raped and incarcerated, simply because their government deems them second-class.
It has also now come to light that the IOC has gained assurances that all LGBTIQ athletes and spectators attending will be exempt from these new laws. To some this would sound like we were successful and that our point was made; however, we still maintain that this is not acceptable. While we might be free to celebrate the Olympics in whichever manner we deem appropriate, the LGBTIQ citizens of Russia will not have those same freedoms.
For all of these reasons, we urge you to consider withdrawing Canada from the Olympics and to stand with our LGBTIQ citizens in support and solidarity.
Tell Russia that we will not stand for these gross violations of human rights.
Additionally, we are asking you to put pressure on the International Olympic Committee to pull the Winter 2014 Olympics from Sochi completely. There is the possibility of holding the Olympics in a previous host city that still has the necessary infrastructure. As the people who hold the International Olympic Committee accountable, we ask that that you put pressure on them to find a solution that satisfies those of us calling for this boycott but still allows the athletes to complete.
As Gerrit Theule said in his article in the Globe and Mail on July 19, 2013, “We ignored the calls to stand up for Canadian values when the Games were held in China. Let’s make sure that we have a real discussion about where we stand this time.”
We thank you for your serious consideration of this issue.
One final thought, we thought you should take a look at the open letter written by RUSA LGBT: http://rusalgbt.com/uploads/Boycott_Sochi_2014_Olympics_-_RUSA_LGBT.pdf