Mayor Jyoti Gondek had strong words for a small number of protesters, whose plans led to the cancellation of the Chinook Blast’s Drag on Ice and DJ Gaysnakes events that were planned for February 11.
Stating that while individuals have the right to protest, they don’t have the right to make people feel unsafe or use hateful language.
She said that the weekend’s cancelled events were not a victory for protesters.
“That is not a victory – shutting down events that will boost our economy. Shutting down things that people enjoy is not a victory,” the mayor said.
“And for that very small group of people who are so filled with hate that think it’s a victory, I can’t accept it.”
Organizers for the protest have indicated on the social media service Telegram, that they plan on holding a victory party at Olympic Plaza in place of their planned anti-drag protest.
Protesters have also said they plan on holding a similar anti-transgender protest at the Canyon Meadows Aquatic Centre this weekend, over an alleged use of a changeroom at that facility by a transgender individual.
The Mayor said that the street harassment bylaw, which was passed in June 2022, would be used as a measure to deter hate protests.
She said that thus far the bylaw has been used several times in the city with tickets issued, but did not have specifics on what dates the $500 tickets were issued.
“It’s a good question to ask, ‘when does the speech that you use in a protest cross the line,’ and I would say that we were very specific in our bylaw,” she said.
Chinook Blast organizers have indicated they still plan on holding the Drag on Ice and DJ Gaysnakes events at a future, undetermined date.
Street harassment bylaw overlaps with charter protection for LGBTQ2S+ individuals
The street harassment bylaw defines harassment as communication in a manner that reasonably could cause offence or humiliation based on race, ancestry, place of origin, religious beliefs, disability, age, marital status, family status, and sexual orientation.
Sexual orientation, which has been the target of various anti-LGBTQ2S+ protesters in recent weeks, is also protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Mayor Gondek said that most people have the common sense to know when that line is crossed, and that the bylaw would be targeting a small group of people “who think this is okay and they believe they can get away with civil disobedience.”
“They are missing the larger point of how terrible this looks on our city and our society, so we as a city are standing up. We’re using a bylaw that we implemented months ago to take some action against this.”
Mayor Gondek said that beyond tickets being used, it would take a reassessment by Crown prosecutors in the province of what the threshold is for hate speech.
“I think if we start looking at the damage that is done to society by people who are perpetuating hate and fear maybe we can strengthen the charges that go along with those types of offenses,” she said.
“We can do our very best with the bylaw, but it’s not enough. We need the Crown prosecutors to weigh in.”
As for the growing number of anti-drag anti-LGBTQ2S+ protests in the city, the mayor said that things have changed.
“Things have turned terribly wrong and they’ve turned terribly sideways. These are not peaceful assemblies. These are designed to do something very, very different,” she said.