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Montreal drag queen to meet with elected officials after library storytime cancelled

Click to play video: 'Guest speaker sparks controversy at Dorval Library'
Guest speaker sparks controversy at Dorval Library
A planned event with a Montreal drag queen in the West Island is sparking a lot of controversy. Miss Barbada is scheduled to speak to a kindergarten children at the Dorval library this weekend. Her appearance is being welcomed by many but detractors are also letting their voice be heard – to the point where police had to be called in to meet with the mayor on Thursday. Global’s Tim Sargeant reports – Jun 9, 2022

A well-known Montreal performer whose drag queen storytime event at a local library was cancelled has been invited to meet with elected officials to discuss the event.

Sébastien Potvin, who performs as Barbada de Barbades, said he learned Monday that the event, scheduled for Nov. 5 at a library in Montreal’s St-Laurent borough, had been cancelled after he was contacted by a journalist.

Except for communications with a librarian, he said he hadn’t heard from the borough until Thursday, when he received the invitation to meet with elected officials.

“That’s exactly what I want, for people to talk and people to exchange and to make decisions based on actual facts, rather than on things they’ve heard,” Potvin said in an interview Thursday.

Read more: Anti-hate experts concerned about rise in online threats toward LGBTQ2S+ events in Canada

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He said he’s confident the borough council will allow the event to go ahead once they realize that it is age-appropriate and has a positive message. The meeting is scheduled to take place in early August.

Potvin has been performing as Barbada for children in libraries and schools for around five years, sharing a message that it’s OK to be different.

He said that among the stories he reads are one about a crocodile who doesn’t like water and discovers he’s actually a dragon and another about a girl who realizes she prefers karate to ballet.

“The stories themselves are important, of course, and they’re fun, but it’s mostly the little message that comes with it: that you might also, eventually, in your life somehow realize that you’re a bit different than others,” he said. “In the end, our differences are really small compared to all the things we have in common, and that’s a really important message, I believe.”

While some drag shows are aimed at adults, Potvin said the library events are for kids.

“If people think that what we’re doing in bars in front of an 18-plus audience is the exact same thing we’re going to do in front of kids, then they obviously don’t understand what we’re doing,” he said.

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In June, another library storytime event with Barbada, in the Montreal suburb of Dorval, was the subject of complaints and went ahead with police present.

In the United States, several similar events have been targeted by protesters who claim the events are “grooming” children. Last month, protesters shouting homophobic and transphobic slurs — one of them wearing a T-shirt showing a rifle and the words “Kill Your Local Pedophile” — disrupted a drag queen story hour in a San Francisco suburb.

“I am a bit worried. We’re not immune to this kind of misinformation ourselves,” Potvin said. “We have to be careful. It’s not all said and done.”

Read more: Drag queen storytime event at Montreal library ‘about respect,’ not controversy

On Tuesday, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante expressed her support for events like Potvin’s.

“There will always be a place for drag queens in our libraries and venues,” she wrote in a post on Twitter. “Through their presence and their art, they contribute to making Montreal a more open, fair and inclusive city.”

While Plante’s Projet Montréal party has a majority on city council, opposition party Ensemble Montréal holds all five seats on the St-Laurent borough council.

Borough Mayor Alan DeSousa did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday, nor did Ensemble Montréal, whose leader, Aref Salem, sits on the St-Laurent borough council.

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Potvin appears as Barbada on the reality competition TV show Call Me Mother and hosts the children’s show Barbada on Radio-Canada’s streaming service ICI Tou.tv.

— With files from The Associated Press

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