Thunder Bay

Dryden, Ont., was all set to host a weekend drag event. Then police responded to an unfounded prank call

The lead organizer of upcoming drag events in Dryden is confused and upset that what she calls a malicious prank prompted the police to visit her workplace on Thursday.

Chair of Dryden Rainbow Coalition says police came to her workplace after a malicious prank

Dryden Rainbow Alliance chair, Catherine Kiewning (left) and her partner Caitlin Hartlen are among organizers for drag performances in Dryden, Ont., this weekend. (Submitted by Catherine Kiewning)

The lead organizer of upcoming drag events in Dryden, Ont., is confused and upset that what she calls a malicious prank prompted the police to visit her workplace. 

Catherine Kiewning, the chair of the Rainbow Alliance Dryden said she was in a meeting Thursday when an Ontario Provincial Police officer came to ask questions about the lewd stage name of a local drag performer. This weekend, several drag events are planned in the northwestern Ontario community. 

Kiewning said the police officer told her a man from nearby Red Lake had called the hotel and library, warning that drag events scheduled to take place there over the weekend were designed to harm children. 

Kiewning said she was caught off guard that police followed up on a homophobic crank call.

"If you know anything about the queer liberation movement, you might know that police presence at Pride has been a very contentious issue and not a lot of queer people feel safe or protected by police services. So it's a very confusing and awful feeling," she says.

"I also understand that this officer probably had no idea what was going on and was probably doing some form of due diligence. It just manifested in a way that was more intimidating than it really needed to be. This could have been a phone call."

CBC News spoke with a Dryden OPP officer who confirmed that one of the force's officers followed up on a call regarding drag events in Dryden but OPP communications was not immediately available for comment.

The performer in question was Caitlin Hartlen, a drag king who goes by the stage name of "Jack Doff." Hartlen was featured earlier that day on CBC Thunder Bay's Superior Morning radio program, which also airs in Dryden and Red Lake.

Drag events have increasingly become popular in northwestern Ontario. This photo includes performers from the Borderland Pride event in 2019, including Caitlin Hartlen, centre, who performs as 'Jack Doff' (Submitted by Caitlen Hartlen)

The interview focused on how Hartlen finds self-expression through being a drag king and how to encourage others to embrace diverse gender expression. 

Kiewning told the officer that Hartlen, her partner, is not even scheduled to perform at Drag Storytime at the library. When Harlen does perform for crowds under the age of 19, her character goes by "Jack D."

Fledgling LGBTQ+ community in Dryden 

Dryden head librarian Caroline Goulding says she was also accused of grooming children when she responded to an abusive phone call from Red Lake on Thursday morning. The caller threatened to notify police before hanging up and an officer arrived at the library shortly thereafter.

Goulding also recalls the officer focusing on the performer's stage name and says the line of questioning followed whether "Jack Doff" would be reading to Dryden's youth.

"On one hand, I think it's good to know the police are looking to support us and make sure no one's going to be harassed at our programs," Goulding says. "On the other hand, it's really concerning that someone could call and make these kinds of wild accusations and I would then have to justify myself."

Kiewning points out Dryden's organized LGBTQ+ movement is very young, having held its first Pride celebration in 2017 and its first drag show in 2018. She says the complaint calls and police presence kept her on the phone for the rest of the day, trying to mend fledgling relationships in her town of 7,500 people.

"This feels like we're going backwards and it's driving a wedge between us and the community that we love and live and work and play in – and it hurts. It hurts a lot," she said. "We're so grateful to those who have donated, who come to our events and [have] shown us that we deserve to be here."

Dragged To Dryden III will still take the stage at The Centre on Saturday night, followed by Drag Brunch and Drag Storytime on Sunday.


Jon Thompson


Jon Thompson is a journalist and author who belongs to Northwestern Ontario. You can contact him by email at or Twitter @JonSThompson.