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NDP wants visa ban on Russian politicians who supported anti-gay law

NDP MP Paul Dewar is pictured in the House of Commons in April, 2013. He and two other NDPers solicitied signatures on Sept. 21, 2013, for a petition calling on the Conservative government to ban the Russian politicians behind that country’s anti-gay law from coming to Canada.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

The federal New Democrats have launched a petition calling on the Conservative government to ban the Russian politicians behind that country's anti-gay law from coming to Canada.

While NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar supported the government's move to speak out against the new law, he said it should go further by barring the legislators who supported it from getting Canadian visas, if they want to visit Canada.

"When it comes to this issue you need to put actions behind your words," he said Saturday.

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"What we've seen in Russia is something that's reprehensible."

Dewar was joined by Linda McQuaig, the NDP's candidate in the upcoming by-election in the federal riding of Toronto Centre, and provincial New Democrat politician Peter Tabuns. The trio hit the streets in the city's gay village encouraging passers-by to sign the appeal.

Dewar said the list of those who back the petition – which is also online – will be presented to the government when Parliament resumes next month.

The controversial Russian law bans so-called "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations" and imposes fines on people who stage gay pride rallies.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has denounced the law and said Canada will work with like-minded countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom to pressure Russia to change it ahead of next year's Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.

Russia is standing by the law, saying it has no intention of changing the legislation despite international condemnation and calls for a boycott of the upcoming Winter Games.

Dewar said the NDP doesn't support a boycott, saying gay and lesbian activists in Russia don't want one because it would shift the focus to the Olympics and away from discrimination against sexual minorities.

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Baird has not endorsed the boycott calls but said Russia's hosting of the Games would draw attention to the issue.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied that homosexuals face discrimination in Russia and said the law does not infringe on their rights.

With files from the Associated Press

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