A gay Montreal author has won a dispute with the La Capitale insurance company after cancelling a trip to Russia he booked before the country passed sweeping "anti-gay" laws.
Last week, K. David Brody received a $1,452.90 reimbursement after threatening legal action when the insurance company initially refused his claim.
Brody said he felt he had no choice but to cancel a trip to see his nephew, over fears for his safety because of changes to Russian law that impose harsh consequences for "promoting homosexuality."
"I booked the trip in June and then I heard about the law in July," said Brody.
"I was really exposed to the risk of being arrested, or imprisoned, or deported. I've published a book and if anybody Googles my name, they're going to know it's a gay novel."
Brody says a La Capitale agent initially told him he would not be reimbursed because the federal government had only issued a caution — not an advisory — against travel to Russia.
The Government of Canada's travel advisory states that although homosexual activity is not illegal in Russia, the law prohibits public actions that "promote homosexuality" and “non-traditional sexual relations.”
The Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR) took up Brody's cause, and the group was ready to argue in court that La Capitale was discriminating based on sexual orientation.
"We knew that this could be a very precedent-setting case," said Fo Niemi, Executive Director at CRARR.
"We thought that the company should have been more... sensitive to his concerns for his safety and for his own freedom."
Niemi says he hopes this is a warning for other corporations, and the government, in the approach to the Winter Olympic Games in Socci.
"We expected that foreign affairs would put out a clear warning, instead of just a caution. Hopefully that will change, especially now that we move closer to the winter Olympics."
Russia has promised the law won't be applied to people attending or taking part in the games.
The statute was signed into law by President Vladimir Putin on July 29, criminalizing public support for non-traditional relationships, by banning "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations among minors."
Russian lawmakers insist the law doesn’t criminalize homosexuality, only that it stops the dissemination of gay "propaganda" among those under 18 years old.