Yann Martel challenges Russia on gay rights

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"As writers and artists, we cannot stand quietly by as we watch our fellow writers and journalists pressed into silence or risking prosecution and often drastic punishment for the mere act of communicating their thoughts."

Those words are includes in an open letter, signed by 217 prominent writers from around the world, condemning the anti-gay and blasphemy laws in Russia. The open letter was published the day before the opening of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. Many prominent Canadian authors signed the letter, including Jane Urquhart, John Ralston Saul, Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje and Yann Martel.

Yann Martel, best known for his 2001 novel Life of Pi, signed the letter "because the moment was right," he told CBC News. "A prominent international event is taking place in Russia right now and it was a good time to remind Russians that they can do better."

Martel also believes signing the letter sends a strong message to his fellow Canadians. "Nations thrive the freer they are," he said. "Every nation needs to be reminded of that. Not just in Russia, but also here in Canada."

You can read the letter in its entirety on The Guardian's website.

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