There are growing calls to boycott the 2014 Sochi Olympics after Russia’s sports minister announced that visiting athletes and tourists will be punished for breaking the country’s controversial new law criminalizing gay “propaganda.”

Minister Vitaly Mutko said Thursday that people with “non-traditional sexual orientation” are not banned from competing in the Games, but there will be consequences for anyone who publicly advocates homosexuality.

Penalties under the law, which was signed by President Vladimir Putin in June, include fines, imprisonment for up to 15 days, and deportation.

Mutko’s declaration clashed with a statement put out by the International Olympic Committee on Wednesday assuring athletes they would be safe attending the Games, and sparked boycott movements in Canada, the United States, Russia and beyond.

In B.C., NDP MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert said the global spotlight that follows the Olympics, which begin in about six months, presents a unique opportunity to put pressure on Russian leaders.

“We’ll be using every moment we can to force them to back down,” he told reporters.

Chandra Herbert said Canada’s federal government also has to answer tough questions about whether it will participate in the Games if Russia refuses to reverse its policy.

“Are they willing to send athletes into a country that would lock up our athletes if they were gay or lesbian, or even suspected of being gay or lesbian? Are they going to put Canadians in harm’s way by saying you can go to Russia to support your loved ones but you may end up in jail if you happen to be seen holding another person’s hand?”

Mutko made his remarks during an interview with state news agency RIO Novosti, but emphasized that the new law wasn’t designed to punish anyone for being gay or lesbian.

He said foreign athletes would be punished only for propaganda, a term that remains ambiguous under the new law, and which critics warn could apply to anyone who simply states that homosexuality is normal.

Putin has also reportedly signed laws banning couples from countries that tolerate marriage equality from adopting Russian children, and allowing police to arrest foreigners they suspect of being gay or pro-gay.

Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has denounced the country’s laws, which have been blamed for inciting a wave of violence against gay youths in Russia, but would not go so far as to endorse a boycott.

“As concerned as we are about the Olympics, that’s nothing,” Baird said in an interview with The Canadian Press. “This mean-spirited and hateful law will affect all Russians 365 days of the year, every year. It is an incitement to intolerance, which breeds hate. And intolerance and hate breed violence.”

The International Olympic Committee responded to concerns earlier this week with an online statement describing sport as a human right that “should be available to all regardless of race, sex or sexual orientation.”

“The IOC has received assurances from the highest level of government in Russia that the legislation will not affect those attending or taking part in the Game,” it read.

The Committee has yet to respond to the contradictory statements made by Mutko on Thursday.

Bars and restaurants across North America have already joined a popular boycott of Russian vodka, including a large number of establishments in Vancouver, which is currently in the middle of Pride Week.

With files from The Canadian Press and CTV British Columbia’s Jina You