Calgary city council passes safety bylaws after protests at library drag events

Calgary city council has updated a bylaw and brought in another to address escalating protests at drag events.

The changes, which were debated at a regular council meeting, include adding the word "intimidation" to the existing public behaviour bylaw.

A second bylaw, which is called the safe and inclusive access bylaw, will immediately prohibit protests within 100 metres of an entrance to a recreation facility or library.

Both will come back to council for a review in a month.

The move comes as a 36-year-old man faces criminal and bylaw charges after a Reading with Royalty event at a public library was disrupted in February.

The family-friendly story times at libraries are led by drag queens or kings, and children are invited to dress in their best outfit, cape or crown.

Charges under each of the bylaws carry a maximum penalty of up to $10,000 or six months in jail.

"Recent protests have targeted members of the (LGBTQ) community and impeding the city of Calgary's ability to provide safe and inclusive access to city services," reads the bylaw. "The public is entitled to access these services without being exposed to messaging or behaviour that is hateful, intimidates, harasses or discriminates."

It lists multiple events that have led to safety concerns, including: a Drag on Ice event that was postponed at the Chinook Blast festival on Feb. 10; ongoing protests at Canyon Meadows aquatic and fitness centre, which is connected to Calgary Recreation's transgender and gender diverse facility; and the children's reading programs at public libraries.

Libraries across Canada — including Moncton, Halifax and Coquitlam, B.C. — have faced similar protests this year.

There have also been anti-drag protests outside the Tate Britain art gallery in London, as well as several bookstores and libraries in the United States.

Tennessee recently brought in a law that would ban drag shows in public spaces starting July 1 and several other states are considering restrictions.

Across the United States, conservative activists and politicians have complained that drag contributes to the "sexualization" or "grooming" of children.

The efforts seek to smother popular "drag story hours," at which drag queens read to kids. Organizers of LGBTQ Pride events say they put a chill on their parades.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 14, 2023.

— With files from The Associated Press

The Canadian Press