Nova Scotia

LGBTQ teen dance in Sydney, N.S., undeterred by alleged threats, say organizers

Queer prom will go ahead on Friday and Cape Breton police say they will be on hand to prevent any violence.

Queer prom will go ahead on Friday with police pledging to attend

Organizers of a queer prom in Sydney, N.S., are going ahead with the event after threats of gun violence were allegedly spotted online. (Canadian Press)

A teenage dance will go ahead in Sydney, N.S., on Friday in spite of reports of someone making threats toward attendees. 

Madonna Doucette is director of the Youth Project in Cape Breton which hosts the queer prom. 

Doucette said she received a message on Facebook from someone who allegedly spotted a threat of gun violence being made toward the event. 

"I felt very angry when I heard that," said Doucette. "I felt irritated that a rumour could have so much control over something very real and very important to the kids I serve. And I also felt very frightened."

'Uniqueness is celebrated'

Madonna Doucette is director of the Youth Project in Cape Breton. (Wendy Martin/CBC)

Doucette said the LGBTQ dances began about eight or nine years ago, and were originally organized by Pride Cape Breton. 

High school and middle school students are welcomed to the dances that are considered a safe space for them to be themselves. 

"This is a space that is dedicated completely for them," said Doucette. "In fact, your uniqueness is celebrated there. It's really a once-a-year opportunity for these kids to truly be relaxed and celebrating who they are. A lot of the youth that access our services often feel like they're outsiders to the mainstream."

'I was angry'

Serena Matheson of Coxheath said her two children will be attending Friday's prom at a local church hall for the first time. She was upset to learn someone was potentially threatening to hurt kids in the pride community. 

"I was surprised that in 2022 this is still something the community is dealing with," Matheson said. 

"Secondly, I was angry."

Matheson and other parents have offered to put themselves in harm's way.

Parents step up

"If I need to stand outside and be a barrier for any potential hazards, I'm willing to do that if it means that my kids get to experience something that they really want to be part of," said Matheson. 

Dance organizers say a local security firm is also volunteering its services for free. 

Desiree Magnus, spokesperson for the Cape Breton Regional Police, confirmed that a report was received from someone who said they saw threats being made online. 

Magnus said there are no further details about the allegation. 

"At this time, there's nothing to indicate an actual threat," said Magnus. "However, we treat any threats to public safety very seriously until we're able to prove otherwise. As an extra precaution police will be present throughout the event on Friday to ensure the safety of everyone involved."

As of Wednesday afternoon, Magnus did not know how many officers would attend.

Hearing from supporters

Doucette said she's been overwhelmed by the number of people who have expressed support for youth in the LGBTQ community. 

"The outrage and sense of strength and defiance from the messages that we're getting is just — it's just inspiring," she said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Erin Pottie

Reporter

Erin Pottie is a CBC reporter based in Sydney. She has been covering local news in Cape Breton for 15 years. Story ideas welcome at erin.pottie@cbc.ca.

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