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Analysis

Wave of Far-Right Protests Against Family-Friendly Drag Queen Events Isn’t Slowing in Canada

All-ages drag queen events experienced threats and harassment in 2022

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Family-friendly drag queen story time events across Canada continue to be subject to a dangerous wave of bigotry as protesters with ties to the ‘Freedom Convoy’ and hate groups use homophobic rhetoric to stoke fear about the 2SLGBTQ+ community.

Drag Queen Story Time events are often held at public libraries in collaboration with 2SLGBTQ+ organizations and involve drag queens reading stories to children about inclusivity.

In the last two weeks, far right organizers have attempted to shut down drag queen story time events in Winnipeg and Saskatoon, the latest in a string of protests and online opposition to other story time events across Canada.

In 2022 alone, fifteen drag queen reading events across the country have reportedly experienced protests, threats and online harassment.

These locations include: Victoria, BC; Richmond, BC; Edmonton, AB; Calgary, AB; Saskatoon, SK; Winnipeg, MB; Peterborough, ON; Pembroke, ON; Pickering, ON; Whitby, ON; Orillia, ON; Dorval, QC; Montreal, QC; Sydney, NS; and Saint John, NB.

Several of these protests were organized through convoy-related channels on Telegram, a social media network popular with the far-right, a CBC investigation revealed earlier this year.

Many of the organizers promote conspiracy theories and use homophobic rhetoric likening LGBTQ individuals, and trans people specifically, to “groomers” and pedophiles.

According to the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, “accusations of ‘child grooming’ were historically used to keep members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community out of professions like teaching. These accusations, however, never abated within the far-right, which has long cast their ideological and political enemies as pedophiles.”

In Winnipeg, far-right organizer and school board trustee candidate Patrick Allard encouraged supporters to peacefully protest a Drag Queen Story Time event at a local cafe on October 29. Allard was a key organizer of several protests against COVID-19 restrictions and has previously promoted the work of Action4Canada, a Christian Nationalist group which is currently organizing against 2SLGBTQ+ resources in schools.

Far-right organizer and local school board trustee candidate Todd MacDougall also encouraged his supporters to protest the Drag Queen Story Time event on his Winnipeg Alternative Media Facebook live stream. MacDougall participated in the convoy occupation in Ottawa and previously self-identified as a Proud Boy – a group that has been designated as a terrorist entity in Canada.

Winnipeg 2SLGBTQ+ organizers and supporters have since planned a Drag Hour Welcome Committee rally to ensure the story time event goes safely and smoothly.

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Welcome Committee organizer Merrill Grant told PressProgress it is important to support 2SLGBTQ+ visibility in communities.

“One of the common threads running through gay, trans and queer liberation is the fight against silence, shame and ‘the closet’,” Grant said. “Drag is perhaps the antithesis of that! Drag is a celebration of queer pride, joy, loudness and resilience!”

Campaigns to harass visible members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community are just the latest attempts to push 2SLGBTQ+ individuals back in the closet.

“The people and groups who are organizing and employing this hate aren’t new, they have just found an issue that they think has enough traction to be mainstreamed,” Grant said.

“Trans people, drag performers and especially 2SLGBTQ+ youth are the most visible targets, and are the focus of their campaign of hate.”

These reactionary campaigns are also used as “as wedge to split communities,” Grant added. “We need people to see that, stand up and call it out.”

“Just like the birth of gay liberation through the 60s and 70s, and the HIV/AIDS crises of the 80s and 90s, we will continue to stand up for the safety, dignity and rights of our communities and families.”

In Saskatoon, Mark Friesen, a Freedom Rally organizer deeply embedded in far-right communities drew attention to an all-ages Reading with Royalty drag queen event on Facebook on October 16 and linked it to conspiracies involving the UN and the World Economic Forum. Popular convoy related Facebook groups like Slow Roll Saskatoon and Saskatchewan Freedom Revolution also promoted conspiracies about the event and encouraged members to protest.

Friesen’s post was shared by Daryl Cooper, an organizer with Saskatchewan-based Unified Grassroots which has ties to Christian Nationalist revival groups. Cooper resigned as a Saskatchewan Party candidate in 2020 after PressProgress reported on his social media history engaging with Q-Anon conspiracies.

Despite this, only 15-20 far-right protesters showed up at the event, although two wore clothing branded with Diagolon, a far-right movement associated with militant accelerationism. They were outnumbered by around 200 2SLGBTQ+ supporters and there was no violence.

Drag Queen Story Time events have also been widely targeted by the far right throughout the US. Far-right protesters recently brought guns and other weapons to an event in Oregon which resulted in violence.

 

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Emily Leedham
Prairies Reporter
Emily Leedham is PressProgress’ Prairies Reporter. Her reporting has a special focus on workers and communities, big money and corporate influence, and systemic racism.

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