Defying the stereotypes of Alberta as a conservative backwater, Rainbow Pride Flag are flying outside of city halls in Edmonton, Calgary and St. Albert and the Alberta Legislature today in solidarity with the LGBTQ community in Russia. The a small but powerful gesture is a sign of support for a community that has become the target of persecution by harsh laws passed by Vladimir Putin‘s government.
The flags will fly for the duration of the Sochi Winter Olympic Games (and until the end of the Sochi Paralympic Winter Games at the Legislature).
A social media campaign to convince the City of Edmonton to raise the flag was started yesterday by Edmontonian Riyaz Sharan. Once Edmonton agreed to raise the flag, the other Alberta cities and the province followed their lead.
Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson‘s office released this statement today:
The City of Edmonton raised the rainbow flag today in support ofLGBTQ communities worldwide. The City of Edmonton took this action in solidarity with other Canadian cities such as Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa and St. John’s. The flag will fly on the community pole on the southwest side of the plaza in front of City Hall for the duration of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Mayor Naheed Nenshi agreed to fly the Rainbow Flag outside of Calgary City Hall today (photo from @chimaincalgary on twitter).
National leaders covet the opportunity to host the international event and multi-national corporations invest billions of dollars in advertising to its massive world-wide audience. Competing in glorious national stadiums and sports centres in between commercial breaks, the athletes appear to be little more than commodities. Make no mistake, the Olympic Games are political by nature.
Given the ongoing and deeply tragic human rights abuses occurring in Russia, an Olympic boycott is not only necessary, it is of vital international importance. A boycott is not simply a message to Russia, it is a powerful statement to the world. There must be human rights for all, or there can be human rights for none. We are one world, with one heart and one love regardless of sexual orientation.
With less than ten days before the Sochi Games’ opening ceremonies, there is little reason to believe that any western country will ask their athletes to boycott the events.
As repugnant as these laws are, the western world should not be shocked. Russia is not a liberal country and the legacy of the Soviet Union and the brutality of its government is real. The Putin government has a long history of human rights violations, cracking down on opposition critics, exploiting migrant workers and limiting press freedom.
Six years ago, I decided to personally boycott of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. I did my best to avoid television coverage the Beijing Games and did not shy away from writing about why I took that position.
The People’s Republic of China is notorious for its poor human rights record and its tendency to stifle freedom of speech among its citizens. I chose not to reward the People’s Republic’s public relations opportunity with my attention.
I am undecided whether I will extend a personal boycott of the Sochi Games. If I do choose to boycott, it will be in protest of the Russian government’s oppressive government. But I also feel a general indifference towards the entire event.
The $50 billion price-tag for the Sochi Games seems so needlessly excessive that perhaps it is time the purpose of the Olympic Games needs to be rethought. The “spirit of the Olympic Games” that we hear about every two years may live in the hearts of the athletes and their families, but it’s a reality that quickly diminishes when you put some thought to it.
Back to Alberta politics… the Court of Queen’s Bench has ordered a temporary stay on the controversial Public Service Salary Restraint Act (formerly known as Bill 46). This judicial decision temporary delays the planned January 31 implementation of the new anti-labour law which would allow the Redford Government to bypass the neutral arbitration process and impose a contract on public service employees represented by the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees. The judge will return with his decision on February 14.