Solidarity shown toward queer community amidst Olympics boycott

Cory Hurley cory.hurley@tc.tc
Published on February 8, 2014
Kyle Curlew, left, speaker for the Queer Caucus of the Grenfell Campus Student Union, and Matthew Brockel, the union’s vice-president executive, attend the pride flag riasing at City Hall Friday.
Star photo by Cory Hurley

Kyle Curlew takes great pride in the response of Newfoundlanders, and Canadians, to the homophobic ways of Russian society.

The openly gay male stood alongside a small crowd in Corner Brook Friday to raise the pride flag in a show of support to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community in conjunction with the opening of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

There has been a strong response, especially throughout North America, to the harsh homophobic policies of Russia and its president Vladimir Putin.

A movement to raise the pride flag soon began in this province, spreading throughout municipalities in Newfoundland and Labrador and into other cities and provinces.

“It is absolutely beautiful,” Curlew said. “One issue we have with the queer movement is visibility. There is no mark of being queer. The more visibility and support we get from the government, official members, public speakers, et cetera, the better.”

It is a stark contrast to how he feels about the perceived backward society of Russia, where the 2014 Winter Olympics proceeded despite the many human rights concerns that exist there.

“It is absolutely terrifying,” he said of events and behaviours of many Russian people.

Far removed from that country itself, Curlew believes that world is a little closer to home when this country’s athletes are sent there to compete. It is not just a Russian issue anymore, he said, and the Olympics being held there reflects poorly upon the committee responsible.

“The Olympics is an embodiment of globalization,” he said. “They have the power clout to choose which countries they go to, and fix some of the problems they cause in their wake. They usually don’t take accountability for these things.

“I think they should have pulled out of Russia.”

He said the Olympics is “incredibly political.”

In support, the Grenfell Campus Student Union has boycotted the Olympics at the western Newfoundland campus of Memorial University. No Olympics events are being held at The Backlot or anywhere on campus.

Matthew Brockel, vice president executive, says the entire student union stands in solidarity with the newly formed union’s Queer Caucus and Grenfell Campus Gay-Straight Alliance. The decision was made after a lengthy debate weighing the membership as a whole versus advocacy rights.

“Most students understand the reason, and are right on side with it,” he said. “There are a few, but you will get that with any major issue.”

In Canada, the Winter Olympics is often celebrated and widely watched and cheered. For students to make a stand, it shows how strongly they feel.

“I believe it stands for how active and engaged the membership of the Grenfell Campus of the Student Union is,” Brockel said. “They believe in each other’s rights, and really want to fight for us all to have the same human rights and civil rights that are integral to the western world and what we believe in here in Canada.”

Corner Brook Coun. Keith Cormier said the flag raising at City Hall was not even a real discussion piece — just a unanimous show of support.

“This is a very inclusive city,” he said. “We have a university campus here and, if young people can express and be comfortable, in any form, it is going to help grow our community and grow our nation, hopefully grow the planet.”