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.

Voted 10-5 in favour of new safety bylaw, 11-4 to change street harassment bylaw

a group of about a dozen people stand beside a vehicle and hold signs that read messages like "love over hate" and "protect trans kids"
Counter-protesters turned up in support of a drag brunch in Calgary. (Tom Ross/CBC)

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

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

The new law, called the Safe and Inclusive Access Bylaw, will immediately prohibit protests within 100 metres of an entrance to a recreation facility or library.

"I am incredibly encouraged that we move forward with this in order to protect individuals wishing to access places that should be safe," Mayor Jyoti Gondek told reporters following the vote.

"There's no banning of protests. It is simply removing [them] from the entrance so that people can have a safe experience inside those buildings."

Several councillors questioned the speed of the bylaw changes and wanted more time to consider the matter, but council ultimately voted 10-5 in favour of the new bylaw and 11-4 in favour of modifying the city's existing street harassment bylaw.

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

LISTEN | Ward 11 Coun. Kourtney Penner explains why she voted in favour of the bylaw:

Calgary city council has passed a new bylaw restricting protests at rec centres and libraries. We hear from one of the councillors who supports the move.

The move comes as 36-year-old Derek Reimer 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 Halifax, Moncton, N.B., and Coquitlam, B.C. — have faced similar protests this year.

WATCH | Social justice lawyer Adrienne Smith expresses concerns about the bylaw:

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

5 days ago
Duration 4:52
Calgary city council has passed a bylaw that will establish safe and inclusive spaces around city libraries and recreation facilities. The move comes after a number of incidents at drag performances in Calgary. Vancouver social justice lawyer Adrienne Smith joined CBC Calgary News at 6 host Andrew Brown to speak about concerns around the bylaw.

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.

With files from Scott Dippel and The Associated Press