Montreal drag queen says story hour event for kids abruptly called off

A prominent Montreal drag queen who recently faced pressure from critics over library readings to young children says her storytime events scheduled for the fall were abruptly called off for unknown reasons.

Barbada de Barbades stars on her own kids' TV show on Radio-Canada and has been leading storytime readings for children for more than five years. She was set to deliver two "Heure du conte" readings at the library in Montreal's Saint-Laurent borough in November but was recently informed members of city council wanted to know more details about the themes she planned to discuss.

"I learned that an elected official had a problem with the programming of storytime and that this person would have convinced the others to cancel the activity," Barbada said Wednesday in an interview with Noovo Info.

Barbada, the stage name of Sébastien Potvin, said the councillor's fears, which she learned about on Monday, are unfounded and said she is surprised she is facing pushback, given her history of speaking to young crowds as a drag queen to share stories of acceptance.

"I've been doing "Heure du conte" all over Quebec for five years. I have a children's show on TV. I am in book fairs, in daycare centres, in libraries. I think I've proven myself. If I had delicate subjects, it would have been said to me a long time ago," he said.

Reached by phone Wednesday evening, Saint-Laurent Borough Mayor Alain DeSousa told CTV News that city staff flagged the upcoming readings to him recently and he wanted to get "more familiar" with her reading material before the events move ahead. The borough is set to meet with the drag queen in August.

"We don't have any issues with Barbada herself as a drag queen. That's not the reason, but we didn't know what topics they would deal with. It was not just a simple question of a crocodile becoming a dragon or something like that," he said, in reference to the 2013 children's book The Crocodile Who Didn't Like Water by Gemma Merino

"Our staff has reached out to her with a view to setting up a meeting when we're back from vacation and we intend to just find a bit more, like what her shows are, how does she deal with material that is sensitive, how do you do it age-specific? Because in our communities we have kids from three years old to eight years old. We just want to have a chance to familiarize ourselves."

He insisted the readings are not cancelled.

It's not the first time Barbada has faced hurdles over reading stories to children.

Last month, the Dorval Library had to assure the community it would proceed with Barbada's Heure du conte after receiving some Facebook comments from people calling for the event to be cancelled. Police were also asked to monitor the event, which had the full support of the city and the library.

Before the event took place, one person wrote on the Dorval Library's Facebook page, "Nope. They do need to learn about drag queens at 5yr old. Let kids be kids."

The library's Facebook account responded by writing, "We think that teaching about inclusion and acceptance is perfect for 5 year-olds (and people of all ages actually!)"

With files from CTV News Montreal's Ian Wood