Ontario's NDP Opposition wants their Tory counterparts to act now and protect drag artists from harassment and intimidation at their performances.
NDP MPP Kristyn Wong-Tam said drag performances are targeted in protests across Canada and the US, justifying 100-metre safe zones around show venues.
"The topic that brings us here is deadly serious," said Wong-Tam, the NDP critic on 2SLGBTQ+ issues. "The rise of hate and violence facing the 2SLGBTQI-plus communities, including the drag artists, happening across Ontario and right [across] the nation has been alarming."
According to Statistics Canada, police-reported hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation jumped from 258 in 2020 to 423 in 2021.
"Drag artists, their audiences, the businesses, and the facilities that host those drag performances have been put at risk," said Wong-Tam, advocating for a strategy to protect them.
During drag queen story hours, adults dressed in drag read to children in recreational facilities, typically libraries, earning tense pushback from concerned parents.
Libraries across Canada — including Halifax, Moncton, and Coquitlam — have faced similar protests in recent months.
If passed, the critic's private member's bill would counter supposed anti-LGBTQ harassment, intimidation, and "hate speech" by fining perpetrators $25,000.
Government House Leader Paul Calandra said they would consider Wong-Tam's bill once tabled.
"I think members on all sides of the house understand how important it is that everybody feels safe in the province of Ontario and that we honour everybody's rights to live and prosper in Ontario, regardless of who you are, who you love and what god you worship," he said.
Previous Liberal governments created safe access zones around abortion sites, and NDP Leader Marit Stiles called on the Tories to provide the same protections to sexual minorities.
"The sad truth is that this government has done nothing to recognize the growing violence against the queer community and even less to help stop it," she said.
"New Democrats have been calling Ford to act for months, but the premier hasn't lifted a finger."
Crystal Quartz, a drag artist based in Guelph, Ont., said she primarily does shows for ages 19 and up, but after doing a few all-ages shows she was targeted for harassment, first online then in person, by what she describes as an organized campaign.
“They then started showing up to all of my events, screaming at parents and myself saying they were groomers, pedophiles and a bunch of other homophobic slurs to make everyone there feel unsafe to attend,” said Quartz.
“These acts of intimidation now made our safe spaces feel unsafe. Unfortunately, all these venues decided to not rebook leaving a huge loss of revenue for me and these businesses. And to be honest, I don’t blame them. It was very scary for everyone involved as they just came to have a good time.”
Quartz said the opposition negatively impacts her ability to earn a living.
On March 14, Calgary City Council updated its own harassment bylaw during a council meeting. It also approved another to prevent opponents of drag shows — particularly those involving children — from peacefully voicing their displeasure.
Council added "intimidation" to the existing bylaw and established safe zones banning protests within 100 metres of a recreation facility or library, effective immediately.
Charges under each bylaw carry a maximum penalty of up to $10,000 or six months in prison.