Victoria mayor dons drag in act of solidarity with threatened performers


Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps showed her support Friday for drag performers recently threatened with violence in B.C.’s Capital the best way she could — in drag.

At the city’s annual raising of the Pride Flag, Helps appeared with a beard and a bowtie, joined by councillors Sarah Potts, also in drag, Charlayne Thornton Joe, and Stephen Andrew as she condemned the violent threats made toward the Sashay Café all-ages drag event.

“These threats of violence have no place in our community,” she said. “Pride month is about celebrating love and the right we all have in a free country like Canada for everyone to love whom they choose, to express their gender how they choose, and to feel safe in all places and spaces to do so.”

Helps said her outfit was an “an act of solidarity, as a member of the queer community, to say and show that all expressions of love and gender are welcome and indeed celebrated in our community.”

The event was set to take place at Caffe Fantastico this Saturday, but it was cancelled after employees received harassing phone calls including a call June 15 from someone threatening to “shoot up the place and everyone in it,” café owner Ryan Taylor said. Police are now investigating the calls.

“To all 2SLGBTQ+ members of Victoria’s community, and all our allies, know that you are loved, and that love will always prevail over fear, hate, and anger. Happy Pride,” Helps said.

B.C. Premier John Horgan also weighed in on the incident and showed support for organizers, tweeting that those threatening violence “do not represent our province.”

The leader of the opposition, Kevin Falcon with the BC Liberals says “this is not the British Columbia we want to see.”

BC Greens leader, Sonia Furstenau, called for everyone to “stand united against hate.”

The threats come as some Republican politicians in Texas push to ban minors from drag shows, the latest in a wave of anti-gay and anti-transgender legislation coming out of the state in recent months.

“It stems from ignorance, it stems from a lack of information and it stems from misunderstanding,” Victoria Pride Society president Britton Kohn said on Thursday.

“Drag is not sexualized. And to lump drag in with burlesque or other forms of artistic expression means there’s more education that needs to happen. When it comes to children by no means is it sexualized.”

Caffe Fantastico employees were also present for Friday’s ceremony.

Victoria Pride Society says it has added more security for all Pride week events including the Pride Parade held June 26 in light of the threats.

“Because of this situation, we have now enacted higher safety protocols,” said Britton Kohn, president of the Victoria Pride Society.

Threats were also made to protest a youth pride dance in Surrey.

However, even in the shadow of these threats Victoria Pride celebrations will continue.

“We are committed to keeping pride safe and we are committed to making pride a place for everybody. Everyone is welcome,” said Dierdre Rowland, executive director of the Victoria Pride Society.

For the owner of Caffe Fantastico, seeing this community support is relieving.

“It’s been really hard but I am smiling a little bit now. The outpouring from the community has been really great to see. People are speaking out loud and clear and I think that’s what needed to happen,” said Taylor.

The Pride flag will fly at city hall until Saturday, July 2. CHEK News will livestream the parade Sunday, June 26 on CHEK TV and CHEK+.

Jeff LawrenceJeff Lawrence

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