Joly wants to reprimand Russian ambassador over anti-LGBTQ posts

OTTAWA — Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly has asked her department to summon the Russian ambassador, following social media posts against LGBTQ people.

The Russian Embassy in Ottawa has posted a message on Twitter and Telegram in recent days indicating that the West is interfering in Russia’s family values ​​and stressing that a family can only be formed by a man. , a wife and children. The embassy also linked images of a crossed-out rainbow flag and Russian Orthodox icons of Adam and Eve with its message.

One of the messages denounces the fact that Canada « confuses the concepts of individual sexual preferences and universal human rights » and resumes an old amalgam with pedophilia.

The first post was posted on November 24, just days after five people were killed in a shooting at an LGBTQ bar in Colorado.

The posts came as Russia recently expanded a ban on exposing children to what Moscow considers « gay propaganda. » Authorities can therefore now charge a Russian citizen for an act they believe could “induce” an adult to be gay or transgender.

Canada was one of 33 countries to sign a joint statement condemning the law, prompting the Russian Embassy to retaliate. « Our country does not interfere in the internal affairs of Canada, » the embassy wrote, and Moscow expects the « same respectful attitude towards the legislative process in Russia » from Ottawa.

“No discrimination in Russia”

Despite extensive documentation of the persecution of LGBTQ people in Russia, including disappearances in Chechnya, the embassy maintains that « there is no discrimination in Russia with respect to the rights of sexual and other minorities. »

In response to the first Twitter post, Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge, who is a lesbian, called Russia’s treatment of LGBTQ people « a shame and an attack on fundamental human rights ».

The Russian Embassy responded with a photo of the Russian Imperial Romanov family, asking Ms St-Onge: ‘please think about and explain how you came into this world’. The family photo shows the last Tsar of Russia, Nicholas II, his wife and their five children, all murdered by Bolshevik revolutionaries in 1918.

“(The) family photo of the Romanovs is a symbol of strong family traditions and an example they set, as Orthodox Christians facing martyrdom,” the embassy wrote Monday when asked to explain. the message on Twitter.

On Twitter, Monday noon, Minister St-Onge wrote: “I am deeply offended by the anti-LGBTQ messages from Russians on Canadian soil. It is unacceptable for a foreign dignitary to make hateful statements that go directly against our Canadian values.

Asked about this in the scrum of the press in Ottawa, Minister St-Onge welcomed the wish of her colleague Joly to summon the ambassador. “We ask for the respect of the people who are at home on this subject,” she said.

Minister Joly’s office demands that the publications be withdrawn. « Unsurprisingly, the Russians have once again chosen hate propaganda, » spokeswoman Maeva Proteau wrote. “We absolutely cannot tolerate this rhetoric, let alone the comment that followed Minister St-Onge’s response. This is an attack on Canadian values ​​of acceptance and tolerance.”

If Global Affairs Canada were indeed to summon Ambassador Oleg Stepanov, it would be the third time this year. The federal Liberal government has already stated that it has no intention of ordering the closure of the Russian Embassy, ​​as it wishes to maintain its own diplomatic presence in Moscow.

“(Our) Ambassador noted that there is still deep disagreement between our governments on a number of issues. But the Russian side remains open to further communication on difficult and even seemingly (insurmountable) issues with Canadian partners, the embassy wrote. Diplomacy should be seen as a necessary tool in times of crisis.”

The main federal opposition parties have also denounced in unison recent Twitter posts from the Russian Embassy in Canada.

Asked about the subject, the Conservatives referred The Canadian Press to a statement made on the same social network a few days ago by their Foreign Affairs spokesperson, Michael Chong. “We believe in family. It exists in all forms, ”we can read there.

The New Democratic Party (NDP) for its part condemned the “hateful and disgusting tweets” through a written comment from its deputy leader, Alexandre Boulerice. One promises to “fight against all those who incite violence and hatred against people” from the LGBTQ community.

Same story on the side of the Bloc Québécois, the spokesperson for gender equality, Andréanne Larouche, having decided that “this kind of remark has no place in a modern democracy”. “Sexual orientation should in no way be an obstacle for anyone in their life choices,” she added in an emailed comment.

Maria Popova, who holds the Jean Monnet Chair in European Law at McGill University, says Moscow has increasingly embraced Orthodox Christian nationalist rhetoric, which notably foresees a « clash of worldviews » with the West.

« LGBT rights are actually a big motivation » for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, she says. “They constantly talk about how Ukraine has gay soldiers in its ranks — that it’s part of the contamination, so to speak, of Ukraine by the West. It’s part of the narrative they’re using to make this war look defensive, which of course it isn’t. »

According to her, Russia is probably trying to sow division where it can.

« It’s also an attempt to push a bit of polarization on the Western discourse (and) engage people who might find this message appealing and encourage them to be heard more, » Ms. Popova argued.

She claims that Russian diplomats have no problem publishing « hate speech and outright lies », which they know to be falsehoods.

Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge said Monday that human rights are a Canadian value that everyone inside Canada must respect. « I find that horrible, I think there’s no place for that, » she said in French of the embassy’s rhetoric.

— With information from Émilie Bergeron


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