Human Rights Concerns at the Sochi Olympics

    This was Google's landing page on February 7th, 2014 - the day the opening ceremonies took place at the Sochi Olympics
This was Google’s landing page on February 7th, 2014 – the day the opening ceremonies took place at the Sochi Olympics

Many concerned individuals and athletes, as well as the Government of Canada, have protested openly at the brutal repression of lesbians, gays and transgendered people in Russia as the $51 billion Sochi Olympics got under way. Seven months before the Games began, Russia passed a law against propaganda that portrays gay relationships as normal.

The law is part of an increasing drive by Vladimir Putin to create a Russia whose identity is rooted in isolationist values. Efforts to organize a boycott like the one that struck the Moscow Games in 1980 were unsuccessful, mostly on the grounds that it would not be fair to penalize the hard-working athletes. President Obama and Prime Minister Harper both chose not to attend the Sochi Games because of the law, and Mr. Obama sent a delegation of openly gay athletes as a rebuke.

The Olympics are among the very largest sponsorship commitments that many companies make. U.S. telecom company AT&T, a long-time U.S. Olympic sponsor, expressed strong opposition to the new Russian law and urged other sponsors such as Proctor & Gamble, Coca-Cola Co and McDonald’s to follow its example. Google, not a sponsor, did post its logo rendered as a rainbow flag, the symbol of gay pride, on the day of the opening ceremonies. It featured a quote from the Olympic Charter:

The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.

Bell Canada is one of the very few Canadian Olympic sponsors to have made an open, if subtle statement about LGBT rights during the Sochi Olympics. If you watch closely, at the 24-second mark of this commercial, you can see a quick shot of two men celebrating the success of a Canadian athlete with a kiss. This subtle inclusion was a nod to the fact that gay marriage has been legal in Canada since 2005, following a series of favourable court decisions beginning in 2003, and is increasingly taken for granted here. It stopped short, however, of taking a strong, overt stand in favour of LGBT rights.

Most Canadian sponsors took refuge in the fact that their ads focus on supporting Canadian athletes, coaches and the Olympic movement in Canada. Despite a lot of pushback on social media, they seem to be surviving the controversy rather well.

We decided to devote this weeks CARP poll to the issue of LGBT rights and the Olympics. As always, you can see the results of the vote immediately after registering your own opinions.


You can also pay a visit to CARP’s Pink Chapter, the virtual Chapter supporting members of the LGBT community all over Canada.

While many of the issues faced by Canadians as we age are common, some of the needs and challenges facing our LGBT members as they age, including issues with the health care system; legal rights, including powers of attorney; housing and long term care, etc., differ from their heterosexual counterparts.

According to Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Elders (SAGE), Aging members of the LGBT community are:
Twice as likely to live alone.
Half as likely to have life partners or significant others.
Half as likely to have no close relatives to call for help.
Four times less likely to have children to help them.

Traditionally, the LGBT community has been under-represented in seniors organizations; a pattern that we aim to change. A core value of CARP, as an advocacy organization representing a New Vision of Aging for Canada, is an abiding commitment to advancing the rights and dignity of every individual. It is also a key objective to build a strong spirit of community and a sense of inclusiveness within our membership, ensuring that CARP is a welcoming organization that respects and embraces diversity.