Russia’s new laws curtailing the rights of gay people within that country’s borders have generated significant push-back in parts of the world that support civil rights regardless of sexual orientation. There’s a loud and growing movement to boycott Russian products like vodka, and calls to boycott the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. (There’s also a petition to shift the venue to Vancouver, though that strikes me as utterly impossible for a variety of political, commercial and logistical reasons.)
No less than President Obama joined that chorus of outrage in a recent TV appearance. Meanwhile, this guest column from Forbes by Mark Adomanis points out that the U.S. routinely tolerates even harsher treatment of gays by other nations, such as Saudi Arabia. And that Russia can correctly point out that U.S. policy on gay rights is inconsistent across the 50 states.
Media reports in Canada say official policy here is likely to welcome Russians seeking refugee status out of fear of persecution for being gay. (Applicants would still have to go through the process to be granted that status, obviously.)
Some refugee claims from Russian gays have already been filed and more are expected. Maxim Zhurvlev is one such claimant, who arrived in Canada two months ago:
“I feel that I’m protected. I feel that I can be myself. I don’t have be worried about violence,” Zhuravlev told CBC News.
“It is considered an honour for a Russian to harm or even kill a gay person. They will be honoured by society and tell everyone, ‘I killed a gay person.’ Everyone basically will be proud of that.”
A fair number of articles have come out in strong support of Canada’s public stance, such as this one from Mclean’s magazine: “Why Canada’s Jews should stand up for Russia’s gays: and the case for boycotting the Sochi Olympics”
Claimants will need to work through the refugee process stipulated by Citizenship and Immigration Canada and/or the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. Some non-profit agencies are also deeply involved in refugee issues, such as the Canadian Council for Refugees.
Older readers may well remember Canada as a safe haven for draft evaders in the 1960s and 70s. (President Jimmy Carter issued a blanket pardon to such persons – wherever they were – in 1977.)
But it isn’t the case that Canada always offers a welcome mat (or a blind eye in the case of draft-evaders). While this is a complex topic, in general, more recent war-resistors who sought refugee status in Canada have been denied, or repatriated to the U.S.
Current official/judicial thinking runs along the lines that an all-volunteer force does not create the same level of risk and coercion that an involuntary draft does and the legitimacy (or lack thereof) of the war in question is not for the Canadian refugee system to decide.(Some have had better success with something called a “Humanitarian and Compassionate Grounds” application.)