Montrealers demand protection for gay men in Chechnya

Nearly two hundred people gathered at the tiny Parc de l'Espoir at the corner of Saint Catherine and Panet in Montreal’s gay village last night. The event was organized by human rights group Collectif carré rose (Pink Square Collective) in support of at least one hundred gay men who were rounded up and tortured in a concentration camp in Chechnya.

Collectif carré rose and its supporters, including Montreal business organizations, want Prime Minister Trudeau and Premier Couillard to use diplomatic and other pressures to help end the unlawful persecutions.

Reports of escalating violence and human rights abuses targeting gay men in Chechnya began escaping via social media about a month ago. Since then, the global LGBT community has lit up Facebook, Twitter and other social networks with horrific reports and witness accounts of beatings, electrocutions and other types of torture. Reports say at least three men have died.

In an April 15 statement, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland called the persecution of gay and bisexual men in Chechnya “reprehensible.”

“We call on the Russian authorities to thoroughly investigate these reports and to immediately ensure the safety of all persons in Chechnya who may be at risk due to their sexual orientation,” said Freeland. “Canada believes human rights are universal and indivisible, and these include the human rights of LGBTQ2 people.”

Collectif carré rose co-founder, Louis Alain Robitaille, expressed disappointment with Canada’s slow reaction in speaking out against these human rights abuses.

“We think that it took a long time for them to take a position, which they did (last) week, but we think that much more needs to be done,” said Robitaille.

Robitaille and Collectif carré rose want the governments of Quebec and Canada to consider all possible political and economic options to help stop the violence.

“We didn’t hear of any concentration camps since the Second World War. So, this has to be taken seriously. It’s not because it’s LGBT people that we can forget about it.”

Collectif carré rose is pleased with the forcefulness behind the Government of Canada statement. However, with growing anti-gay and homophobic sentiments around the world Robitaille is more interested in Canada’s plan for “combatting discrimination, violence, and unjust laws targeting the LGBTQ2 community around the world.”