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Canada tells gay travelers to avoid St. Petersburg

Russian city's ban on 'gay propaganda' comes into effect Saturday.

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The Canadian government issued a travel advisory today telling gay travelers to avoid St. Petersburg, Russia. A ban on "gay propaganda" there begins Saturday. (MIGUEL ROJO/AFP/Getty Images)

The Canadian government issued a travel advisory today suggesting homosexual tourists use caution in St. Petersburg, Russia.

That city’s ban on “homosexual propaganda” comes into effect Saturday.

“Canadians are advised to avoid displaying affection in public, as homosexuals can be targets of violence,” the Department of Foreign Affairs advisory reads. “Homosexuality is legal, though some still strongly disapprove of it.”

St. Petersburg is the 4th Russian city to enact the ban after Ryazan, Arkhangelsk and Kostroma, the National Post reported.

The ban is designed to guard against “public actions propagandizing homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexuality and transsexuality among minors,” the Post said.

However, critics suggest government and Orthodox Church pressure are behind the moves.

“Canada’s ambassador has written to the Russian government to express our deep concern and, yes, we have at his request, put a travel advisory on our website,” Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said today in Parliament, according to The Toronto Star.

More from GlobalPost: Saint Petersburg 4th Russian city to ban ‘gay propaganda’

Those caught violating the law face fines of anywhere between 5,000 and 500,000 rubles ($170-$17,000), the Post said.

Travel Gay Canada founder Bruce McDonald said his group’s members always use caution when traveling.

However, he suggested the advisory is still a welcome announcement.

“The No. 1 thing that gay and lesbian travelers look for is safety, and if they don’t feel safe it’s certainly going to be a deterrent,” he told the Post.

Baird said Canadians' safety abroad is his department’s top priority.

He suggested Canada could soon issue similar advisories to other countries with similar laws on the books.

“We’ll certainly look at that,” Baird told The Star. “Obviously, one of the core responsibilities I have as Canada’s foreign minister is to promote Canadian values around the world, and I will continue to do this.”

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/canada/120316/canada-tells-gay-travellers-avoid-st-petersburg