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Central Alberta Pride Society demands apology from city councilor for denigrating library’s Drag Queen Storytime

Central Alberta Pride Society wants diversity training for all of members of Red Deer city council after disparaging remarks were made about Drag Queen Storytime at the Red Deer public library.

While the society does not identify all of the city councillors who made the critical remarks either publicly or to individual citizens, Coun. Kraymer Barnstable had posted to Facebook on June 22: “Drag is adult entertainment and should not be put in front of 4-8 year-olds, especially not in a public setting. Like many, I am extremely disheartened by this event.”

The Central Alberta Pride Society said disparaging the library’s drag queen reading event does not align with the City of Red Deer’s mandate to be a welcoming and inclusive community or to be a city where everybody feels safe.

The group wants an apology from Barnstable, as well as more diversity training and review of the Conduct Code review for members of council and administration.

On June 21, Lilliana Starlight read Itty-Bitty Kitty-Cornby Shannon Hale, about a kitten who’s picked on until a friend helps her embrace who she is, and This Day in June, by Gayle Pitman, set during a Pride celebration. It was the first time the Red Deer library hosted a drag queen reading event, which has been held for years in other libraries across Canada.

The Society questions how reading to youths books about self-acceptance and tolerance would be considered ‘adult entertainment’? “If it were, we’re fairly certain our local library would not promote such an event.”

Last month the library’s CEO, Shelley Ross, said it’s important that the event that promotes tolerance and inclusivity continues, despite some “hateful” emails that she likened to censorship.

Starlight was wearing a full-length flowered gown for the reading — which the Society’s letter point out is not much different than a reader wearing a Hogwarts costume for a Harry Potter reading. “Is the only difference which makes somebody uncomfortable that the person reading the story is a member of the LGBTQ2S-plus community?”

The Central Alberta Pride Society noted that suicide rates for LGBTQ2S-plus youths is four times higher than their peers. Research has shown that when these youths gain social support and acceptance from at least one adult, suicide risk diminishes by 40 per cent.

“To say that any one person sitting down with youth to read them a story which promotes loving yourself, accepting others, and educates about diversity is ‘child abuse’ or ‘grooming’ (as mentioned by some comments in the post) is incredibly misguided , disconnected, and downright false – whether that individual is plain clothed or in a fabulous costume,” states the letter.

“We recommend that all city councilors take the time to review what the mandate of the RDPL actually is, and remind them that this type of event fits squarely within this mandate. We also remind all city councilors they represent there citizens within the City of Red Deer, and are guided by policies outlined in the Council Code of Conduct Bylaw 3608/2018.”

The group is calling on city council to take three actions: Make all members of city council and top administration take LGBTQ2S-plus educational training from the Welcoming and Inclusive Communities (WIC) Network; Review the city’s Conduct Code with all members of council; and for Barnstable to issue a formal apology to the LGBTQ2S-plus community and the Red Deer Public Library.

Red Deer’s Major Ken Johnston and Coun. Barnstable could not immediately be reached for comment.
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