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Calgary Public Library postpones Southwood library drag reading event

Safety of visitors was considered; the CPL hopes to reschedule the event when the can assure safety.

The Calgary Public Library will postpone its Reading with Royalty event this weekend in light of ongoing protests related to the events.

The Reading with Royalty program is a family-friendly storytime event led by drag queens, kings and other monarchs at Calgary Public Library locations.

There have been a series of protests in recent weeks around the events that parents typically attend with their own children.  Protests that were focused on Covid-19 public health restrictions have switched to anger over drag shows and transgender rights as part of a broader North American movement of right-wing grievances against progressive changes in society.

The event scheduled for this weekend at the Southwood Library has been suspended to ensure safety, the Calgary Public Library said. There had been posted protests once again planned for this location.

“We remain committed to our partnership with Calgary Pride and will reschedule the event once we can be sure that we can provide a safe and fun environment for kids and families that wish to attend,” read an online statement posted to the library website.

The Calgary Public Library said they’ve hosted the Reading with Royalty events for five years. An incident at a recent event at the Seton Library prompted a response.

“The right to protest is fundamental to our democracy, but what happened last weekend inside Seton Library was not a protest,” the library said.

“It was an organized, targeted, and intimidating disruption of a program in a space where small children were present.”

Charges in Seton library incident

The Calgary police laid two charges against Derek Reimer in the Seton Library incident. Calgary peace officers issued six bylaw violations as well.

The anti-drag protests also forced the postponement of a Chinook Blast event.

The library says any connection to the sexualization of children is incorrect.

“This program is a popular, family-friendly event that celebrates inclusion and imagination through stories and songs,” the library said.  

“All performers and staff complete training to ensure that events are kid-friendly and entertaining. The suggestion that it is anything else is categorically untrue and rooted in misinformation and intolerance.”

The CPL said that they have seen an increase in the number of customer messages — both positive and negative — this week, though they weren’t able to quantify it. They told LWC that today their hotline staff noted that they appreciated the public’s support.

They said they recognize that some of those conversations can be challenging and stressful for staff and they provide staff with training as well as mental health resources to support them.

The library said everyone has the right to feel respected, safe and included in their spaces. They did not make the decision lightly. When asked if this was giving in to the hate motivation, the CPL said safety was paramount.

“I would say that it’s important to remember that this is an event for children and ultimately, we have a responsibility to provide a safe space for them,” said Mary Kapusta, CPL Director of Communications and Engagement.

“The statement that we shared today reflects the seriousness of what occurred last week, and postponing tomorrow’s event allows us to take the appropriate steps to ensure we can continue to deliver this program.”

The CPL statement expressed their apology to the families that were “excited” to attend this weekend.

They said they would be rescheduling the event once they can provide a safe environment for families.