Drag Storytime has been postponed until further notice after the Nelson Public Library received unspecified threats from groups in Salmo and Castlegar, according to the performer
Birkley Valks says the event was just to provide something fun for families to attend and bring their kids to. He says the event has already been a hit in other communities and he was looking to bring that success to Nelson.
“There are so many kids, and families, in this community would have benefited from this and would have loved it,” he says. “It is just reading stories to kids. It is heartbreaking to be perfectly honest.”
Valks says he is disappointed with the threats, and with the event’s cancellation, but he doesn’t want to see anyone put at risk.
“I think it just means we have to work harder,” he says. “I don’t know how the library is going to handle it but they are at a lot of risk.
“They have to deal with people every day, all the time, and they really shouldn’t be subject to this. I am considering a storytime at Lakeside Park just to take that burden off them.”
He says having threats or violence appear in any way is horrific and is what he is trying to avoid for his own family.
“I really wished my kids could’ve been raised in a community which was safe. That is why I moved them to the Kootenays and out of Kelowna,” he says. “I was shocked to see it wasn’t any better but now I think it might be worse.”
Drag Storytime was scheduled to take place this Saturday.
Four days ago the library suspended comments on its social media channels.
In a notice on its Facebook page, the library wrote that it is “proud to be a welcoming and safe place for all members of our community.”
It said it has tried to provide “programming and services that cater to the diverse voices that make up our community, and we will continue to strive towards this goal.”
Chief librarian Tracy Therrien said in a media release they have zero tolerance for hate speech, discrimination, or violence.
“We recognize the rights of individuals to protest,” says Therrien. “When protests turn to threats and intimidation tactics aimed towards staff and the storytellers, the safety of library patrons, public and staff take precedence.”
She says the library will continue to offer a diverse range of programs to build on its promise of inclusion for all community members.
“In addition to Drag Storytime, the library hosts a variety of inclusion-based programs for everyone like anti-racism, anti-bullying, disability awareness and examining ableism,” she says. “The programs and events are in addition to library books and other resources with a focus on diversity and inclusion.”
Therrien says the library has postponed the event, but will continue to support the community through equality, diversity and inclusion in meaningful ways.
“Though we are no longer hosting an event on Saturday, and apologize to the families who were excited to attend, we are not canceling the program,” she says. “We look forward to supporting the diversity of Nelson in collaboration with the local LGBTQ2IA+ community.”