QUEEN’S PARK — Marit Stiles, the Leader of the Official Opposition NDP and MPP Kristyn Wong-Tam (Toronto Centre) joined many drag artists, including Scarlett BoBo and Crystal Quartz at Queen’s Park this morning to announce a private member’s bill designed to protect 2SLGBTQI+ communities.
“Hate crimes against drag artists and 2SLGBTQI+ community members are on a dangerous upward trend,” Stiles said. “New Democrats have been calling on Ford to act for months, but he hasn’t lifted a finger to make queer and trans communities any safer. They deserve to feel safe everywhere in Ontario — so we’re proposing legislation to win more safety for 2SLGBTQI+ Ontarians today.”
“Drag artists have faced threats and intimidation all across Ontario over the past year,” Wong-Tam said. “Businesses and 2SLGBTQI+ community members are being told that they can’t be out and proud from Thunder Bay to Hamilton, to Guelph, to Stratford, to Welland, Ottawa, and even Toronto. New Democrats are giving Ford’s Conservatives a chance to stop hate—today—by passing my private member’s bill.”
The Protecting 2SLGBTQI+ Communities Act’s first schedule would allow the Attorney General to designate addresses in Ontario as 2SLGBTQI+ Community Safety Zones for a specified period of time. During the time a safety zone is in effect, anti-2SLGBTQI+ harassment, intimidation, and hate speech within 100 metres of the designated address could receive a provincial fine of up to $25,000.
The bill’s second schedule would strike an advisory committee made up of MPPs and diverse queer and trans community members who will provide recommendations to prevent and combat anti-2SLGBTQI+ hate crimes in Ontario. Wong-Tam’s bill is co-sponsored by the Ontario NDP’s 2SLGBTQI+ caucus: MPPs Jill Andrew (Toronto – St. Paul), Lise Vaugeois (Thunder Bay – Superior North), and Terence Kernaghan (London North Centre).
Scarlett BoBo, who competed on Canada’s Drag Race, spoke at the press conference, saying:
“Drag artists and trans people have an inherent right to live freely and authentically in their truth. Everyone wants to feel safe and valued in their work, especially while sharing their love and art with the world. These recent acts of organized protests and aggressive forms of intimidation need to be halted and condemned.”
Crystal Quartz, a drag artist who performs for corporate and all-age events across Ontario has been specifically targeted by anti-2SLGTBQI+ extremists threatening violence. She said “What I do is not much different than what you would see at a theatre or going to see your favourite pop artist in concert. The only difference is that I was assigned male at birth. In these safe and inclusive spaces simply by being my joyful and loving self it creates an environment which allows others to feel the freedom to be themselves. These are happy and loving environments that you should be able to attend without fear.”
MPP Jill Andrew
“Drag is a high artform that celebrates queerness, transness, gender fluidity, and above all, belonging and community. It was not too long ago that it was only done in secret, as it wasn't safe or legal otherwise. Thanks to decades of activism by queer elders and trailblazers like Michelle Ross, the art of drag has become mainstream - seen on the city's busiest streets, the world's largest festivals, and on television sets across the globe. This means more than entertainment. It means queer youth struggling with their identity can see themselves represented, and the potential that comes from being their most authentic self. It means that queer elders who've paved the path of queer liberation, losing too many along the way, get to eat the fruits of their labour. It means the queer community has a space that's safe to live and love out loud. We cannot risk this being pushed underground again, by vile bigotry and hate; what is indeed a risk right now. This government must stand with our queer, trans and non-binary community to keep them safe by passing our Bill.”
MPP Terence Kernaghan
“Too many drag performances have become targets for hateful threats, intimidation, and organized protests, especially in smaller communities across Ontario. No one should live in fear simply for living their truth and sharing their art. The government must support this legislation put a stop to the alarming rise in hate action against drag artists and 2SLGBTQI+ community.”
MPP Lise Vaugeois
“As Thunder Bay-Superior North MPP, I am proud to stand in solidarity with our 2SLGBTQI+ community in support of this much-needed bill. It is unacceptable that hate crimes against drag artists and 2SLGBTQI+ community members have been on the rise, not only in Toronto but across the province. I have seen the positive impact that events like Storey Time with TBay Drag Queens have had in our communities, bringing people together in a safe and welcoming environment. It is important that everyone, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation, feels safe and valued in their community. I am proud to be a co-sponsor of this bill and stand with my NDP colleagues in advocating for a more inclusive and just Ontario.”