Canadian Anti-Hate Network
Once again a small group of protesters opposing an all-ages drag event were vastly outnumbered by counter-protesters supporting a day of inclusivity and fun geared towards children in the nation’s capital.
Part of Capital Pride's annual Winterlude programming, the Ottawa event took place on Wednesday at the National Arts Centre and featured stories read by drag performers China Doll and Cyril Cinder. Unlike drag events intended for adults, which typically take place in age-restricted venues and can feature adult-oriented content, the NAC event featured only performers in colourful costumes.
Opponents of these events claim the purpose is to sexualize children, and performers and organizers face accusations of “grooming” children – equating both transgender people and drag performers (many of whom are not transgender) with pedophilia.
Opposition to these all-ages events is increasingly a problem in both the United States and Canada, however, many recent performances have drawn significant local support. With opponents outnumbered by supporters waving flags and symbols of solidarity with the 2SLGBTQ+ community, organizers of the Ottawa counter-protests say that families attending the event often never see opposition when entering or exiting the building.
Around 30 people attended the protest opposing the event, waving signs and informing others they would be going to hell for supporting the event. Many are familiar faces from Ontario’s COVID-conspiracy street protests that have taken place since 2020.
While the event remained mostly peaceful, people on the scene report some minor scuffles that included a counter-protester allegedly being slapped in the face. A spokesperson for the Ottawa Police Service confirmed that four people were arrested on the scene.
All were later released without conditions.
“There were no criminal charges laid,” OPS said in a statement to the Canadian Anti-Hate Network. “There is no further comment at this time.”
“A Huge Success”
With the large showing of support, counter-protesters CAHN spoke to consider the event to be a successful showing of community support for inclusive programs.
“It was a huge success. I heard people commenting afterwards that because of the banners and flags that they didn't even see the hateful protestors,” a spokesperson for Community Solidarity Ottawa (CSO), an organization made up of local labour unions, community organizations and residents, said during an interview. “Everyone, all the families and kids got in and out safely. We easily outnumbered them. We took up space and basically just blocked out their hatred. I would say it was a massive success. People are motivated to keep showing up to fight against the far right.”
The event follows CSO’s recent release of a safety guide, detailing tips and considerations to make when showing up to counter the radical and far-right in public. From what to bring to using the buddy system, it is a primer for those looking to get involved and remain as safe as possible while doing so.
“We had previously had a safety planning section on our website, but that was for a specific one-off event. We wanted to update it and make it something that's generally useful,” CSO told CAHN, “and that was kind of based on both our experience and the experience of some more experienced activists who've been around for a while and who've been doing stuff not just here in Ottawa, but in other cities as well.”
With their city the epicentre of 2022’s “Freedom Convoy” protests and blockades, Ottawa activists learnt a number of lessons when it comes to countering far-right actions like the one outside the NAC
“A lot of it is based on our experience with the convoy and the post-convoy stuff in Ottawa and seeing things like seeing these live streamers and so-called independent journalists walking around at our events.”