Canada has updated its travel advisory to Russia to include a warning about a new law in St. Petersburg that criminalizes "homosexual propaganda."
The change to Canada's travel advisory was announced yesterday in the House of Commons. In answer to questions from the NDP during Question Period, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said the advisory was changed to take into account the new law in St. Petersburg that becomes effective today.
Baird said, Mr. Speaker, we are all deeply concerned by this legislation that runs contrary to core Canadian values of freedom of speech, of human rights and the rule of law.
The Foreign Affairs Minister also advised the House that Canada's ambassador has written to the Russian government to express Canada's deep concern about the new law.
Section 8 of the Travel Advisory - Russia has been changed to give recognition to the new law in St. Petersburg. As reported by Digital Journal, the law purports to protect minors from sexual predators. It criminalizes the promotion of homosexuality and pedophilia as well as making homosexual and pedophilia propaganda illegal.
The law is extremely broad and and merely talking about homosexuality in public could constitute "propaganda" and a breach of the legislation.
Canadian gays who travel to St. Petersburg are warned that actions in public such as disseminating information, making statements, displays of affection, or other conspicuous behaviour may lead to arrest and a fine.
As reported in the Victoria Times Colonist, fines range between 5,000 and 50,000 rubles or $167 and $16,763.
Although similar laws are in effect in Ryazan, Arkhangelsk, and Kostroma, St. Petersburg poses a particular problem as the city is a popular tourist destination in Russia.