Hamilton man petitions to boycott Sochi games
David O'Garr says the country's new LGBT laws are a human rights abuse
A Hamilton man has started a petition encouraging Canada to boycott the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi because of Russia's new laws restricting homosexuals.
David O'Garr, a downtown resident, has gathered about 600 names so far. By late August, he hopes to send the petition to the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) encouraging them to boycott for "horrible human rights violations."
Rumblings have spread across social media calling for a boycott. But when O'Garr looked for a formal Canadian petition, he couldn't find one. So he made one.
"I just feel like this is something that as a country, we need to talk about," he said. "There needs to be a dialogue."
In late June, the Kremlin made it illegal to spread "propaganda for non-traditional sexual relations" to minors. It also banned the adoption of Russian children by gay couples, or in countries where gay marriage is recognized, such as Canada.
Violent attacks on gay rights activists in the country have become "frequent," says Amnesty International. And Russian authorities have drawn criticism from human rights groups for failing to prosecute violent attacks on LGBT people.
Not everyone is in favour of a boycott. The executive director of the LGBT advocacy group Égale Canada told the CBC last week that she didn't support a boycott. And Mark Tewksbury, an openly gay former Olympic athlete, told the CBC that a boycott would mostly hurt the athletes.
"I'm as outraged as anybody," he said. "I think it's horrible and these kinds of laws are draconian and they just have no place in the world in 2013.
"By all means, keep protesting. By all means, keep expressing your outrage at these laws. But there are other ways to get the point across without athletes having to boycott."
When O'Garr first heard of the propaganda law in Russia, he felt "disgust, fear" and "really scared for the people of Russia."
He made the petition and mailed word of it to his email contacts, and word spread from there.
Not all of them agreed, he said. But even those who didn't agreed to pass it on.
O'Garr doesn't want the Olympics cancelled. He'd like to see them moved to a former winter host city.
"Russia is a host country for the Olympics and everything they're doing now is against the Olympics and against the Olympic values," he said.
"Russia is a G8 country. They're one of the leaders of the world and they're supposed to lead by example. Thus far, they've been going backwards."
Even if Canada doesn't boycott the Olympics, O'Garr said, he hopes he at least raised the issue in people's minds. He feels that pressure from the international community is the only factor that will influence the Kremlin.
"I think it's the only possibility," he said.