Opinion Column

Canada not too Fast in condemning Russian tactics

BILL TIELEMAN

What kind of backwater repressive dictatorship would ban gay pride parades for the next 100 years, throw peaceful protestors in jail for two years hard labour and call a prominent music star a "whore" for daring to speak out against it?

Welcome to President Vladimir Putin's Russia, which has democratic pretensions but is clearly an intolerant, homophobic regime for many of its citizens.

The pre-trial jailing of three members of punk band Pussy Riot for protesting against Putin in Moscow's main Orthodox cathedral was outrageous enough.

But now the three women - two of them mothers of young children - are sentenced to two years hard labour!

Pussy Riot's terrible crime? They jumped on a church stage wearing colourful balaclavas to deliver a punk prayer, chanting "Holy Mother, Drive Putin Away" during February's presidential election.

Not to be outdone, another Moscow court this month upheld that city's ban on any parades by gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered citizens for a century.

And given that Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin called music star Madonna a "whore" on Twitter after she called for their freedom, don't expect much to change anytime soon.

One jailed Pussy Riot band member, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, holds a permanent Canadian residency card. But that hasn't made a difference in this country's pathetic response to the show trial.

More important is the approximately $3 billion in trade between the two countries; so as Pussy Riot members sat in jail, Conservative International Trade Minister Ed Fast led a trade mission to Russia in June.

Fast should read Moscow Judge Marina Syrova's verdict, which describes Pussy Riot as committing "grave crimes," despite noting that: "belonging to feminism in the Russian Federation is not a legal violation or a crime."

Not yet!

Such repressive moves should be no surprise.

Russia has also joined with China to stop any meaningful international intervention to end the massacre of the Syrian people, an infinitely more serious situation.

What to do? Support online campaigns by Amnesty International and All Out to free Pussy Riot and overturn homophobic laws.

Think hard about spending your tourist dollars travelling to Russia.

And consider buying vodka from other countries, where basic human rights aren't so hard to swallow.

Read more Tieleman at http://email.sunmedia.ca/service/extension/convertd/convertd/12/www.TheTyee.cawww.TheTyee.ca and http://billtieleman.blogspot.com/http://billtieleman.blogspot.com/ Email: weststar@telus.net