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Collingwood library pushes forward with drag queen story time

‘This year, there does certainly seem to be a bit of a different climate out there,’ says library CEO; event running June 2
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Collingwood Public Library | Erika Engel/CollingwoodToday file photo

Some vocal opposition to a drag queen story time event planned at the Collingwood Public Library won’t shake the library’s chief executive officer, Ashley Kulchycki.

On June 2, drag performers Fay Slift and Fluffy Souffle are planned to read stories to children at the library as part of PA day programming. Although this is the third time the library has held the annual event (the second time in person), Kulchycki says she has noted a shift in the reaction this time.

“The last two years we’ve held it, we’ve had very minimal criticism or negative feedback,” Kulchycki told CollingwoodToday this week. “This year, there does certainly seem to be a bit of a different climate out there.”

Fuelled by conspiracy theories and pushed by a growing far-right online movement, protests against family-friendly drag events have been erupting in municipalities across Ontario, and the country, for months.

According to investigative reporting by GuelphToday, in many cases, the protesters screaming outside public libraries are part of the same far-right groups that fought loudly against vaccine mandates during the “freedom convoy.” But now that mandates have been lifted, they have seemingly turned their attention to drag story time events — convinced the performers are dangerous pedophiles trying to groom children.

Locally, drag queen story time events in Orillia, Midland and Springwater have also been met with vocal opposition, harassment, and threats to library staff.

A Facebook post by the library promoting the Collingwood event posted May 9 received so many comments opposed to the event, the library shut off commenting.

Kulchycki says she’s also received one concerned phone call from a resident so far.

“We’re offering this because one of our core values at the library is diversity. We’re also a Safer Spaces champion. Part of that mandate and upholding those values is creating 2SLGBTQ-positive spaces,” she said.

She says anyone who feels uneasy about drag queen story time should attend and speak with staff and the performers to see what it’s about.

“We want people to see what it’s really like and the inclusion and support people feel,” she said. “We run these events because, in the past, we’ve had great turnout and a great response. There’s certainly an interest from our community.”

She also says as a public library, it’s fundamental it values freedom of expression.

“We respect everyone’s right to choose. If people feel this isn’t a good fit for them, then they don’t have to attend. We just ask that everybody respect the choices of those who do choose to attend,” she said.

Seating is limited for the event, so attendees are being asked to register. As of this week, about 30 of the 50 spots have been filled.

Registration can be completed here.

— With files from Keegan Kozolanka and Taylor Pace