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Dozens rally in support of Vancouver theatre on day 1 of drag summer camp for youth


Workers at a theatre in Vancouver are rallying for support in anticipation of protests planned Tuesday over summer camp programming for children and teens.

The labour union IATSE 118 says Carousel Theatre for Young People has been the target of hate because it’s offering a four-day drag summer camp for youth aged seven to 17, which is set to start on July 4.

For the first day of the camp, IATSE 118 is asking people to join its members outside 1411 Cartwright St. from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. for “a united front against those who would do harm to anyone in our theatre community,” according to a statement.

“We believe the presence of the Local, in both its official form as support for our workers, and as a group of informed and caring individuals, can easily present to those threatening the camp evidence that their actions will not be tolerated,” reads a release the union issued last week.

Dozens of people showed up in support of the theatre on Tuesday morning, including several Vancouver city councillors. Fewer than 10 protesters were present.

Members of IATSE 118 handed out stickers saying “I support Carousel Theatre for Young People,” as well as bubble wands, Pride-themed buttons and donuts.

One member, Heather Turnbull, told CTV News that she hopes kids who are attending the drag camp will feel empowered by the support and proud to be part of the community.

“Everyone has the freedom to believe in what they believe in—especially the kids—and to do what they want to do and be who they want to be. It’s all about love and freedom and creativity. Obviously everyone here really supports that and it’s just a beautiful thing to see,” said Turnbull.

Since the theatre announced its summer programming back in March, it has faced backlash from people across the country—including the leader of the People’s Party of Canada, Maxime Bernier—and has hosted multiple fundraisers in order to hire additional security to be present at its events.

One online fundraiser that was organized last week in response to the planned rally has amassed more than $16,000 in a matter of five days.

IATSE 118 said in its statement that the summer camp programming has inspired threats of physical violence to its members and structural violence towards the theatre.

In an email to CTV News on Tuesday, the Vancouver Police Department said it’s aware of the protests happening at the theatre.

“We have officers monitoring should anything criminal arise” said Const. Tania Visintin, VPD spokesperson.

The union says a group called Action4Canada has already shown up at the theatre to present the company with “bogus” legal documents and a petition with more than 17,000 signatures.

A post on the alternative social media platform Rumble confirms Action4Canada delivered the petition, as well as a notice of liability for “facilitating in the sexual exploitation and luring of minors,” to Carousel Theatre on June 15.

Two days later, the company shared resources on social media regarding its drag camp for young people.

“We are proud to be able to share resources like these with the community to help put a stop to this misinformation and hate,” reads the Instagram post.

The post goes on to explain that drag, at its core, is just like any other art form.

“Consider the way your child might already interact with costumes, clothes and makeup,” the theatre writes. “Drag is a non-judgemental space for kids to understand that these things can be fun for all genders.”

Speaking to CTV News at the counter protest Tuesday morning, Councillor Christine Boyle commended Carousel Theatre for its inclusive programming.

“It’s sad that this is still a debate that we’re having, but incredibly inspiring to see so many people show up on the side of love and belonging,” said Boyle.

“I hope that kids can just show up and be themselves and explore and play and be creative and be all of the parts of themselves without having to fear for their safety or feel like they have to be any smaller than they are.” Top Stories

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