Protesters attempt to disrupt drag queen story time at Edmonton library

Protestors and counter-protestors went head-to-head outside an Edmonton library hosting a program that invites drag queens to read storybooks to little kids. Sarah Chew hears from parents at the library.

By Sarah Chew

It was anything but quiet outside the Edmonton Public Library on Saturday.

A small group of protesters gathered outside the downtown library to voice their opposition to an event featuring a drag artist reading children’s books to little kids.

Sign-waving counter-protesters also made their way to the library to show their support to the “Over the Rainbow Storytime” event with drag artist Felicia Bonée.

“Everyone should just accept each other and love each other and focus on that message, and focus on the love,” said Bonée after the story time was over. “And I was just trying to make sure the kids got that message.”

Drag artist Felicia Bonée on Aug. 6, 2022. (Credit: CityNews/Sarah Chew)

EPL has held several drag queen story times since 2017, and staff say the program has been well received.

“Normally every program that we’ve had has been very warm and welcoming and fun for the kids. That’s why we keep doing it,” said Elaine Jones, the manager of youth services at EPL. “And so I would say give it a try. Here at Milner it’s in an open area, it’s great, you can drop in, you can test it out and walk away if it’s not for you.”

Outside the library, protesters and counter-protesters faced off.

“I find it very problematic that we have people who want to be children entertainers as well as adult entertainers. I think we need to draw a line somewhere there,” said one man, who shouted intermittently into a megaphone.

“Adult spaces, not public places!” he cried.

One counter-protester shared his experience doing drag: “I’ve been doing drag 25 years and some of my greatest memories at Pride and whatnot are little kids wanting pictures, little kids coming up to me, wanting to share their cookie with me or telling me I look like a giant Barbie doll.”

Another said she loved seeing the community come out: “I’ve had allies, members of the community, and it’s just really amazing to see everybody show up and to support the community and that we’re not going to allow hate to roam free in Edmonton streets.”

Protesters and counter-protesters at drag queen story time event outside Edmonton Public Library on Aug. 6, 2022. (Credit: CityNews/Sarah Chew)

Drag artist not bothered by protesters

Bonée says she was not too bothered by the protests.

“To try and disrupt a children’s story time is one of the most random things I could imagine someone doing on their Saturday,” she said. “There’s so many better things you could do that don’t affect children also.”

Some parents at the library said they were glad to bring their kids to the drag queen story time program.

“We try to keep our minds open about her being who she is, and expressing who she is and trying not to force our own ideas about that on her, and I think it’s wonderful modelling,” said Joanna Funk, a mom of a three-year-old.

Karley Vandam, a mom of a four-year-old, echoed that sentiment.

“I think it is a great opportunity, like I said before, to expose them in such a natural setting. It’s a safe space, you can have that conversation with your child afterwards so you’re present with them.”

The library’s manager of youth services says protests like the one that took place over the weekend will not prevent the library from continuing their drag queen story times.

Similar story time event cancelled, reinstated in Montreal

Edmonton is not the only Canadian city where a drag queen story time event for kids faced some backlash.

Last month, a borough in Montreal pulled the plug on an event featuring well-known Quebec drag queen Barbada de Barbades.

The borough was met with accusations of homophobia before the event was reinstated earlier this month.

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