Family-friendly drag events across Canada, many hosted by municipal libraries, have been targeted by a deluge of hateful comments and threats during Pride month, prompting multiple police investigations and renewed concerns about the safety of the LGBTQ community.
More than half a dozen libraries and drag performers, from Saint John to Victoria, reported being inundated online and over the phone by homophobic slurs and, in some cases, threats of violence.
Drag Story Hour events are popular at many libraries in the country, and usually feature a performer in drag reading children’s books about inclusion. They are often held in collaboration with local LGBTQ associations and have caused only minor controversy in the past.
But amid a surge in anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and policies in the U.S., and a conservative movement in Canada increasingly influenced by right-wing politics south of the border, the all-ages drag events have turned into flashpoints of anger.
The City of Dorval, a Montreal suburb, received a wave of complaints in early June as soon as it announced its library was hosting a story hour with well-known local performer Barbada.
“We received hate mail. We received threats. You name it — we received it,” said Sébastien Gauthier, a spokesperson for the city.
In the comments, library staff were, among other things, accused of assisting pedophiles and threatened with lawsuits. Their personal information was also circulated online.
“We also received more worrisome threats for the activity per se, people threatening to come by and do this and that during the event,” Gauthier said.
Montreal police patrolled the June 11 event, which was without incident, and have opened an investigation into the threats.
“I’ve worked for the city for almost 20 years. I’ve never seen anything like this,” Gauthier said.
An all-ages drag show in Victoria was cancelled mid-June after the cafe that was scheduled to host received a slew of threatening phone calls.
“Our show has been running for the last three years with absolutely zero complaints or concern from anyone in the community,” said a spokesperson for For the Love of Drag, the group that was slated to perform.
The spokesperson asked CBC News to withhold their name because of ongoing safety concerns.
“It’s frightening to be reminded that there are people out there that wish you didn’t exist, that wish they could harm you — especially during Pride month,” the spokesperson said in an email exchange.
A police investigation did not treat the incident as a hate crime and no charges were laid but a restraining order was issued against one person, the spokesperson said.
Libraries in Pembroke, Ont., Pickering Ont., Orillia, Ont., and Calgary also confirmed receiving a large volume of negative comments for hosting their own Drag Story Hour events this month.
Ontario Provincial Police said they have an active investigation related to the Pembroke event, but declined to provide further details.
The surge of hate appears to have diverse sources. In Saint John, for instance, past and aspiring candidates with the People’s Party of Canada were among those who circulated misleading images on their social media accounts to suggest a story hour event at a local library earlier this month wasn’t age appropriate.
One image was from a 2019 burlesque show in the U.S., the other was from an adult drag performance in April.
The posts spurred a long string of hateful comments against the performer, Alex Saunders, whose drag persona is Justin Toodeep.
“We read a couple of books about a prince and knight who fell in love and then a couple of books on different types of families you might see,” Saunders said of the all-ages June event.
Saunders says they sent more than 40 pages worth of screen grabs of the comments to Saint John police, including one that said it was time to “light the torches,” and another that called for Saunders and a fellow performer to be burned alive.
Saunders says they were told that there was insufficient evidence of a direct threat to pursue charges.
“[It has been] very scary and weird and I really have been trying to put on a brave face for my community, but I had a full-blown, crying, didn’t-want-to-leave-the-house meltdown,” Saunders said.
The public library in Pickering said it received a wave of homophobic and transphobic comments, both via phone and online, following an article and video report by True North, a right-wing media outlet founded by former Conservative MP Candice Malcolm.
On True North’s Facebook page, posts about the event received more than a dozen homophobic comments, many accusing drag performers of pedophilia, a long-running trope in anti-LGTBQ rhetoric.
In several instances, groups and social media accounts affiliated with the Freedom Convoy encouraged supporters to protest the Drag Story Hour events.
Stand4Thee, an anti-vax mandate group that supported the blockade in Ottawa, has issued several calls in the past month for members to contact libraries hosting drag events.
In posts on Telegram, a social messaging app, the group says the events “indoctrinate our children” and are “disgusting perverted filth.” Their posts were shared on the Convoy to Ottawa 2022 channel, one of the largest groups on the app used by convoy supporters.
Members of Calgary Freedom Central — a Telegram channel with nearly 9,000 subscribers that helped rally support for truck blockades in Ottawa and Coutts, Alta., this winter — used slurs as they tried to mobilize opposition to an event last week at a branch of the Calgary Public Library.
Members suggested a physical confrontation to show performers they were “not welcome” in Calgary. Another user suggested confronting parents who brought their children to the event.
As in many of the other online forums, the comments in Calgary Freedom Central often invoked the term “groomer” to describe the drag performers or the library staff hosting the events.
The slur, which is derived from the baseless stereotype that LGBTQ people are involved in pedophilia, is increasingly popular among right-wing groups in the U.S., where several drag story hour events have been disrupted by protests this month.
When Calgary’s LGTBQ community learned of the negative online chatter, about 25 members of the community and their supporters turned up at last week’s story hour event to prevent disruptions.
“I want to make sure the children and performers are the most protected they can be,” said Farrah Nuff, a drag performer who attended the event at the Nicholls Family Library.
Despite being subjected to threats, officials at municipal libraries hosting such events insist on their importance and maintain they won’t be intimidated.
Bessie Sullivan, CEO of the Orillia Public Library, said she never contemplated cancelling the event, even though callers were, among other things, threatening to get her fired.
“They pissed me off,” Sullivan said. “So actually, what we did, as this ratcheted up, I added a second story time.”
Library staff in Pembroke say they fielded a slew of threatening calls and emails, some promising that dozens of protesters would disrupt their drag story hour event.
Karthi Rajamani, the library’s CEO, was sufficiently concerned that she contacted police and gave her staff additional safety training. But, like Sullivan, she never considered cancelling the event.
“Libraries are community leaders. We should be examples of inclusion and diversity,” Rajamani said.
In the end no one showed up to protest in Pembroke. The event was well attended and, Rajamani said, residents applauded the library for going ahead with it. Several other librarians expressed similar sentiments.
DENVER, (CBS4)- Usually at LGBTQ events like Denver’s Pride celebration Eli Bazan is working. Especially if it is a family friendly event like a Drag queen story hour. He’s one of the co-founders of the Parasol Patrol. They are a group of volunteers that tries to separate event attendees from protestors.
“What we do is we use our rainbow umbrella as a shield to block the signs and the faces of protesters,” explained Eli. “We use our ear protection for our little ones.”
They absorb the heckling and name-calling so that kids don’t have to. He says he feels like they are protecting kids from bigotry and hate.
“Quite honestly, some of the stuff they yell at these kids is pretty dramatic,” said Eli.
Despite what they might hear from protestors, the Parasol Patrol doesn’t start trouble. No matter how tense the situation may get.
“We don’t engage with them at all. I’m not here to yell back,” said Eli. “I’m not going to change their mind. They’re not going to change my mind.”
Eli says taking the high road is getting tougher to do. He follows extremists online to see where they are planning to show up. Recently he has seen an increase in hate.
“The rhetoric in the last 2 months has been the highest I’ve seen in the last 3 years,” he said.
He says take for example the extremist group that was recently caught readying themselves to disrupt a Pride event in Idaho. He saw extremists planning their event online before they were caught.
The Parasol Patrol says they have seen threats made toward Denver’s Pride weekend events as well which is why Eli says he stays ready.
“There will be protesters. Tomorrow at the parade, there will be protesters,” said Eli.
Eli says they report threats of violence to law enforcement because, while they are good at protecting people, there are some things out of their scope of expertise.
“These aren’t ballistic shields. They don’t stop bullets. They’re just umbrellas,” Eli said.
While it can be dangerous to confront extremists, Eli says it’s worth it so that everyone can feel welcome at public events. Especially children and families.
“It helps them understand that they’re not alone. That there are people just like them that that they are loved because of who they are not in spite of who they are,” said Eli.
Local Indigenous groups have distanced themselves from a planned far-right gathering in the Kingston area, stating that the event amounts to appropriation of Indigenous culture, and that they are not affiliated with the event, nor do they support it.
“The actions that are taking place on our Territory (Kingston, ON) is unacceptable. For those who are participating in these actions, the Indigenous Community does not support the setup of a sacred fire in Kingston in support of the ‘Freedom Convoy’. The Indigenous Community did not give consent for these ceremonial practices and [they] could cause more harm to who we are as First Nations/Algonquin people,” said the Katarokwi Grandmothers Council, Tipi Moza, Kingston Indigenous Language Nest, and other additional Indigenous organizations in a joint press release.
“First Nations and Non-Indigenous people should always remember protocol and that permission from us [is] needed to proceed,” the letter continued. “This letter is to serve notice that the Kingston Indigenous Community does not support or endorse these actions. If these actions continue, we have no other choice but to support the Kingston Police in their efforts and actions to stop this at once. Once again, we do not support the freedom convoy or any other movement that compromises the safety of our community members.”
Mutual Aid Katarokwi also issued a statement regarding the unsupported event. “June 21st will be celebrated by many as National Indigenous Peoples Day. Meanwhile, past participants of the far-right convoy attacks are on the road again, this time travelling to the ‘greater Kingston area’ to unite at a ‘Sacred Fire Festival’,” the group said.
While organizers of the planned event alleged that they had strong ties to Indigenous communities, when Indigenous groups pressed them on specifics about these ties, they received no response.
“For those who don’t know, Sacred Fires are a revered cultural Ceremonial Practice in many Indigenous communities that have specific Protocols,” the statement continued. “Local Indigenous people with culturally grounded Knowledge stewarding this Tradition have questioned ‘freedom’ advocates on the specifics of which Indigenous community was organising the event and had invited them. Far-right organisers replied ‘I am First Nations’. Further inquiries resulted in a ban and the deletion of all evidence of these questions,” Mutual Aid Katarokwi said. “While the ‘Sacred Fire’ event’s website vaguely references Indigenous Traditions and Beliefs, it does not detail which Indigenous groups have organised the event.”
Mutual Aid Katarokwi said that local Indigenous peoples, and those monitoring the tactics of the far-right, are concerned that “this event may be appropriating Indigenous customs and de-centering Indigenous peoples from stewardship of their own Sacred Protocols, to the benefit of the far-right and the profits of event promoters. These concerns could be addressed and discussed if contact could be made with the community starting and tending the fire. But again, this has been denied.”
Kingston Police have said that they are aware of an organized group descending on the City of Kingston either today or tomorrow for an “event”. “This event has been organized by members directly and indirectly involved in previous protests held in Ottawa earlier this year and involves an undisclosed number of individuals travelling from as far as British Columbia and Alberta to participate,” Kingston Police said in a statement.
“Police have become aware that event organizers are reportedly travelling to the Kingston area to participate in a gathering to celebrate the Summer Solstice with a ceremonial sacred fire in recognition of noted Indigenous significance, on what will be National Indigenous Peoples Day. The Summer Solstice, which is held on June 21st, is the longest day of the year and throughout history and across continents, has been a time for Indigenous cultural celebration,” police said in the statement. “However, after reaching out to Kingston’s Indigenous community members, police have ascertained that they have no awareness of this planned event nor did they invite this group of individuals to attend their own planned ceremonies,” Kingston Police continued.
“As a result of learning this information, Kingston’s Indigenous community, out of an abundance of caution, did not follow through with weekend ceremonies leading up to June 21st, and expressed some concern for how this group will affect their planned celebrations for National Indigenous Peoples Day. Police have assured the local Indigenous community that all measures will be taken to ensure that local celebrations are not disrupted,” Kingston Police said.
Kingston Police also said that they wish to assure the community that they “are working with external policing partners and local resources will be in place to respond to this organized event and will address all safety issues that may arise as a result.”
“I am overwhelmed with the positive feedback we have received from the participants and our speakers alike. Really pleased with how we at Neoss have managed to take dental events to a new level with the implementation of new technology never seen before in the industry. The future is bright for Neoss.”
Dr. Robert Gottlander, CEO and President of Neoss Group.
This milestone celebration marked 20 years since the first Neoss implant was placed, and that initial patient was present on stage to commemorate the event. This was also the first time the latest 10-year data on the Neoss implants was presented along with a significant amount of positive clinical research.
“Wow, this has been 3 amazing days of education and celebration. I think all speakers did an outstanding job and that has also shown in the extremely positive response that we have received!”
Prof. Christer Dahlin, Scientific Chairman
Neoss launched multiple new products at the meeting. The most notable was the Neoss branded intraoral scanner, NeoScan 1000TM. An easy to use, fast, light weight intraoral scanner that fits perfectly into any practice’s digital workflow. Other notable launches were a new surgical tray, new surgical tools, SLM implant bridges and more.
Neoss offers intelligent solutions that are intuitively easy to use. Our products allow dental professionals to provide reliable and cost-effective treatments to their patients with predictable long-term results. Leading the market with ingenuity and integrity, we strive to set new standards. In developing smart treatment solutions and working closely with each practice, Neoss makes the complex less complicated. We call that Intelligent Simplicity. Headquartered in Harrogate, UK, with research and development based in Gothenburg, Sweden, the company has established a global footprint with a long-standing presence in key markets. To find out more visit https://www.neoss.com
Youngkin, a former private equity CEO who ran on a conservative platform, namely supporting parental rights for school children, hosted a private Pride reception at the state Capitol in Richmond. All except one member of the Virginia LGBTQ+ Advisory Board boycotted the event, while the Washington Post reported that the group of openly gay, lesbian and transgender state legislators were not invited.
The one member of LGBTQ+ Advisory Board who chose to attend, Michael Berlucchi, a Republican city councilman from Virginia Beach, told WRC-TV of Youngkin’s reception that, “this demonstration of outreach, of genuine communication is reflective of why he was elected.”
“I accepted his invitation because I perceived it to be a good-faith, honest attempt to engage all Virginians,” Berlucchi separately told the Post of the event attended by about 50 people. “There’s obviously a gap there… My attendance does not convey a total endorsement of the governor’s policies. Of course, we have more work to do, and that’s why dialogue and learning are essential.”
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin held a round table meeting with parents and two of his secretaries at a Safeway grocery store in Alexandria, VA on February 3, 2022. ( (Photo by Robb Hill for The Washington Post via Getty Images))
“The Governor is committed to leading on behalf of all Virginians and events like this help strengthen our communities and the spirit of Virginia,” Youngkin’s spokeswoman Macaulay Porter said in a statement, nodding to his platform to be the state’s unifier on divisive issues.
Last week, Youngkin also traveled to Virginia Beach to meet with the Log Cabin Republicans, a conservative LGBTQ group.
“The Democrat Party and the people on the left, the left-leaning organizations, they all lambaste Republicans for not embracing the gay community. And then when one does, they lambaste, and they lose their minds,” Casey Flores, president of the group’s new Richmond chapter, told WRC-TV.
Pride flag projected over the statue of Confederate General Robert Lee on June 12, 2020, in Richmond, Virginia, before former Gov. Ralph Northam ordered its removal amid protests following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. ((Photo by Eze Amos/Getty Images))
Meanwhile, more liberal LGBTQ groups in Virginia issued press releases announcing that they would not attend the Pride month reception at the Virginia Capitol. James Millner, director of Virginia Pride, said he appreciated the invitation but would decline because, “it is premature for this administration to celebrate LGBTQ+ equality when it has yet to take any meaningful steps to advance it.”
In the past, Youngkin, who is deeply religious, said he privately opposed gay marriage but accepted the practice as law.
Supporters of Policy 8040 celebrate with signs as the transgender protection measures were voted into the school systems policies during a school board meeting at the Loudoun County Public Schools Administration Building on August 11, 2021, in Ashburn, Va. ((Photo by Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post via Getty Images))
During his campaign, he also defended a teacher who was suspended for refusing to use students’ preferred pronouns and had spoken out against transgender athletes playing on sports teams that do not align with their birth sex.
“The Governor should meet with citizen groups to discuss their concerns but given that nothing less than total capitulation to the LGBT agenda will appease these groups, this seems like a distraction,” Victoria Cobb, president of the conservative Family Foundation of Virginia, which is advocates against same-sex marriage, said in a statement regarding Youngkin’s Pride reception.
Lisa Turner, another member of the state LGBTQ+ board, criticized Youngkin for not issuing a Pride month declaration but did recognize that the governor attended her group’s recent meeting to publicly condemn racist and homophobic messages and imagery they were receiving online.
Danielle Wallace is a reporter for Fox News Digital covering politics, crime, police and more. Story tips can be sent to email@example.com and on Twitter: @danimwallace.
AMHERST — Musical and theatrical events, visual artists and programs focused on the natural environment are among the 65 recipients of $61,475 from the Amherst Cultural Council.
Matt Holloway and Julianne Applegate, who lead the council, recently announced that Amherst Ballet, Amherst Cinema, The Hitchcock Center for the Environment and Gallery A3 will be receiving grants. In addition, the Amherst Business Improvement District received money to cover the costs of signs for The Drake venue created by artist Kamil Peters.
Other projects funded include Maitreyee Chakraborty’s “East Meets West — Tagore and Dickinson,” Pamela Tillis’ “In the Spirit and the Flesh: The Cultural Legacy of Dr. Frederick C. Tillis,” and Jennifer Bajorek’s “Look and Feel: Senegalese Graffiti Artist Residency and Exhibition.”
Money will also go to two Amherst Juneteenth celebrations, the Odenong Powwow on Amherst Town Common, a virtual dialogue “Shedding Light on the Namesake Amherst,” and the Hilltown Youth Performing Arts Program Summer Workshop.
State Rep. Mindy Domb said in a statement that she appreciates the programs that will be funded. “I am particularly excited about the ways the local cultural council has dedicated funding to ensure accessibility to programs by specifically funding measures to increase accessibility to arts and culture programs for people living with disabilities,” Domb said.
That accessibility includes providing money for Sign Interpreting, or ASL, Musical Interpreting and CART, or real time closed-captioning.
Input sought on budget
Amherst town officials are seeking input and participation from residents as the budget season commences.
At Monday’s joint Town Council and Finance Committee meeting, starting at 5 p.m., a hearing will be held on the nearly $90 million spending plan presented earlier this month by Town Manager Paul Bockelman, with the public invited to offer comments during the live Zoom session.
The following day, May 17, the town will hold what is being dubbed an all-day “ask me anything” event in which Finance Director Sean Mangano will field questions through social media, Facebook, Twitter and Reddit, as well as the Engage Amherst website.
The idea, said Brianna Sunryd, the town’s communications manager, is for Mangano to respond to inquiries at some point during the course of the day, whether posed at 3 a.m. or 10 p.m.
Then, on May 20 at 10:30 a.m., Bockelman will hold a virtual Cuppa Joe with Mangano where people can ask live questions. That event will also be recorded. The Town Council will vote on the town, school and library spending in mid-June.
Passing of Peggy Roberts
A longtime Amherst resident who served for 28 years on the Amherst Redevelopment Authority and was instrumental in the planning that led to the Boltwood Walk projects that include the Bangs Community Center and the Boltwood parking garage, recently died.
Margaret “Peggy” Roberts died at home at the age of 94 on April 24. Roberts, who also participated in projects to envision Sweetser Park and Kendrick Park, was a member of Town Meeting for over 50 years and was also active in the Amherst League of Women Voters.
She served on the inaugural redevelopment panel in 1974, departing that in 1996, when she also retired as a biology lab instructor at Mount Holyoke College. Roberts had been on the Center School Complex Committee that preceded the creation of the redevelopment authority.
Local student getsThailand scholarship
Lyudmila Pitts, an Amherst Regional High School junior, has received a scholarship to continue her high school education at the UWC Thailand.
The daughter of Paulina Alenkina and James Pitts, Pitts was among 59 students in the United States selected for the merit-based Davis Scholarships.
UWC is an international high school for 16- to 19-year-olds with 18 campuses worldwide. Its mission is to unite cultures through education, creating a peaceful, sustainable world. It also offers an International Baccalaureate.
The Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce is hosting an open house for the Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst Association’s 20th anniversary and new location celebration to be held May 18 at 11 Amity St.
The open house begins at 3 p.m. with tours of the new location and an opportunity to meet the CAIA team. A ribbon-cutting is at 4 p.m., with refreshments and hors d’oeuvres to be served. To RSVP, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Grown in Hadley” T-shirts, along with caps, tote bags, pins and History of Hopkins books are being sold this spring to benefit the Edward Hopkins Educational Foundation.
The items will be available during the town election at Hadley Senior Center on Tuesday, the gazebo in front of Hopkins Academy during the Memorial Day parade, and at the June 4 Asparagus Festival.
City moves forward with a modified season of in-person events.
CITY OF THUNDER BAY
THUNDER BAY – With COVID restrictions now lifted, the City will be moving forward with a modified season of in-person programming and is inviting talent, food vendors, event vendors, artist/artisans and community groups to apply to participate in the City’s annual events series.
The events season includes 15 event days, including two event series, ‘Live on the Waterfront’ and ‘Movie Nights in the Park’. All events are free to the public and, pre-pandemic, collectively drew tens of thousands of attendees.
The 2022 events include:
Canada Day on the Waterfront: Friday, July 1
Live on the Waterfront: July 13 to Aug. 31 plus matinee performance to take place on one of the Wednesdays. Date to be determined
Movie Nights in Park: Aug. 12, Aug. 19, Aug. 26 and Sept. 1
Food vendor, event vendor, community groups and artist/artisan applications are due by 4 p.m. on Friday, May 13 and Call for Talent is due by Monday, May 16, 2022 at 4 p.m.
“It was scary. We’re still dealing with it,” said Dwayne Gray.
As the CEO of WolfPack Riding Club, Gray is working with others, like the Owner and CEO of New Era Booking and Management Firm Paul Franklin, on the newly formed Trail Riding Safety Commission.
Through meetings, like one held Wednesday night, their community is working with police to make sure future events for a long-beloved hobby, which grew in popularity during the pandemic, are safe, though they say that the “Epic Easter” party was hosted by someone outside of their association.
“It’s to work, and like I said, to bring all the organizations together so that we do a better job of monitoring and have conversations around just violence, senseless violence. What do we do to prevent these things and not be reactive to them but be more proactive,” said Paul Franklin.
That includes seeking permits, which the City of Dallas has pledged to crack down on, along with obtaining insurance and implementing new security measures to protect their community and to make sure everyone gets home safe.