Hundreds of Montrealers gathered in front of the Russian consulate Tuesday night in a peaceful protest against the country’s new anti-gay legislation.
"People are being beaten up and we really thought that, being Pride week in Montreal, we needed to send a strong message to the Russian people," Jean-Sébastien Boudreau, vice-president of Pride Montreal.
Among the group of new laws is one that bans "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations," under threat of steep fines or jail time.
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In recent weeks, the new measure has sparked ever-louder calls to boycott the Olympic Games in Sochi this February.
Activists from around the world have publicly railed against the law in recent weeks, saying its vague wording effectively criminalizes homosexuality as a whole.
Many are afraid the law may galvanize an already powerful anti-gay movement in the country.
"It is so poorly drafted that it would allowed any interpretation of any communication of someone who is supposedly, or deemed to be a homosexual to be a criminal offence," said Alan Conter, a Montreal-based media law expert.
At the vigil Tuesday, several speakers addressed the crowd including Gilbert Barker, the San Francisco artist who created the rainbow flag in 1978, which has become the international symbol for gay pride.
"I think they should boycott the Olympics – I think they should pull out," Barker said in a interview at the event. "I think Russia pulled the biggest snow job in history, pardon the pun, on the international Olympic committee. They should have never put the Olympics in Russia."