Mélanie Joly summons Russian ambassador to answer for anti-LGBTQ tweets

Canada's foreign affairs minister is summoning Russia's ambassador after the embassy in Ottawa published a number of anti-LGBTQ social media posts.

Tweet targets minister of sport, asks how lesbian MP 'appeared in this world'

Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly has now summoned Russia's ambassador to Canada three times this year. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Canada's foreign affairs minister is summoning Russia's ambassador after the embassy in Ottawa published a number of anti-LGBTQ social media posts.

"Unsurprisingly, the Russians have once again chosen hateful propaganda," Mélanie Joly said in a media statement issued by her office.

"We absolutely can't tolerate this rhetoric … This is an attack on the Canadian values of acceptance and tolerance."

It's the third time Ambassador Oleg Stepanov has been summoned by Joly this year.

Last week, Russia passed legislation through its lower house extending its ban on publishing information relating to LGBTQ people.

In a statement published on social media, Russia said the new law was enacted to fight "propaganda" that "promotes same-sex sexual relations or preferences, as well as pedophilia."

Sport Minister Pascale St-Onge, who is lesbian, criticized the Russian legislation on Twitter, calling it "homophobic propaganda" and "an attack on human rights." The Russian embassy lashed out in response.

It published a series of tweets accusing the Canadian government of meddling in Russian affairs — one of which was targeted at St-Onge personally. 

The embassy published a picture of the late Romanov family with the message, "Madame, with all due respect to your opinion, will you, please, explore and explain how you appeared in this world?"

Joly's office said the ambassador will be expected to explain the tweet directed at St-Onge.

Other recent tweets from the Russian embassy included a picture of a pride flag with a cross through it, with the caption, "It is all about family. Family is a man and a woman and children." Another posted an image of Adam and Eve with the caption, "And yes, there are just two sexes/genders — a man and a woman, male and female."

A statement dated Nov. 25 published by the Russian Embassy's Twitter account accused Canada of "deliberately distorting the reality by conflating the concepts of individual sexual preferences and universal human rights."

The statement says that the rights of sexual minorities are protected in Russia but that "propaganda" about the LGBTQ community "infringes the rights of traditional majority of the Russian citizens."

The statement goes on to quote former Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau's famous statement on gay rights — "There is no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation" — adding that details of LGBTQ relations should "remain strictly personal."

'A direct threat' 

The embassy has also published a number of tweets criticizing Canada's Medical Assistance in Dying legislation, claiming it amounts to the Nazi regime's eugenics policy "reincarnated in neoliberalism."

Artur Wilczynski, an openly gay former Canadian ambassador to Norway and a LGBTQ rights campaigner, said he was shocked by the tweets put out by the Russian embassy.

"It was a direct attack not only on the LGBTQ2+ community but it was a shot across the bow in terms of Canada's domestic framework, in terms of protecting human rights," he said. 

"To see this coming out from a mission accredited to Canada was just a step too far and I thought was, quite frankly, a fairly direct attack on our values and on our country."

Wilczynski said he took the image of a crossed-out pride flag as a "direct threat."


Peter Zimonjic

Senior writer

Peter Zimonjic is a senior writer for CBC News. He has worked as a reporter and columnist in London, England, for the Daily Mail, Sunday Times and Daily Telegraph and in Canada for Sun Media and the Ottawa Citizen. He is the author of Into The Darkness: An Account of 7/7, published by Random House.