On Sept 1, 2017 The Globe and Mail reported: For three months, the federal government has been secretly spiriting gay Chechen men from Russia to Canada, under a clandestine program unique in the world.
The evacuations, spearheaded by Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, fall outside the conventions of international law and could further impair already tense relations between Russia and Canada. But the Liberal government decided to act regardless.As of this week, 22 people – about a third of those who were being sheltered in Russian safe houses – are now in Toronto and other Canadian cities. Several others are expected to arrive in the coming days or weeks.
“Canada accepted a large number of people who are in great danger, and that is wonderful,” said Tanya Lokshina, Russian program director for Human Rights Watch, a New York-based organization, in a telephone interview. “The Canadian government deserves much praise for showing such openness and goodwill to provide sanctuary for these people. They did the right thing.”
The decision may be seen as controversial. Homosexuals in many parts of the world are harassed, imprisoned, even – as happened recently in Indonesia – publicly flogged.
And the government is struggling to accommodate thousands of mostly Haitian asylum-seekers flooding into Canada from the United States, even as opposition politicians demand that Ottawa find a way to plug the loophole that lets them in.
But the Liberals decided the situation was unique: Chechen security forces were rounding up gay men in a program, placing them in need of immediate rescue.
The program has been a closely held secret within the government for months. Non-governmental organizations that were involved have also kept silent, for fear that any leaks could imperil the people they were trying to help.