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Boycott wrong

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As protests rise over a Russian law passed in June that tramples gay rights, calls for a boycott of the Sochi Olympic Games next winter are growing. But not everyone agrees, nor should they. Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird properly is in the latter camp.

While condemning the new Russian law, which makes it an offence to circulate information about homosexuality where young people might see it, Mr. Baird on Thursday also called on Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to give unequivocal assurances all athletes and visitors to the Games will be free from legal recrimination should they choose to express in Russia their views about the state's growing intolerance toward homosexuals.

His words came as Russia's sport minister warned that any foreigners who transgressed the law -- ambiguously phrased so as to catch up what might be the wearing of a lapel pin, the waving of a rainbow emblazoned flag or holding a sign -- would feel the force of the law.

With assurances visitors will have freedom to make such simple expressions, a boycott of the Games would be the wrong response, something many gay and human rights groups agree on -- they know the value of a world event. Russia will be saturated by media attention, tourists and global TV viewership, opportunities to train a deserved light on its growing intolerance.

Those fighting for equality in Russia can use that support. All Russians, too, will have cause to ponder what kind of Russia they want: one that respects basic human dignity, or a cynical throwback to the days when self-interested masses gave a ruling elite licence to make scapegoats of those too easily demonized.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 2, 2013 A10

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