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'Hate-motivated incidents' that emerged in response to drag story time in Nelson, B.C., under investigation: police

Birkley Valks reads a story at a peaceful event held outside Nelson City Hall on March 11, the same day a drag storytime event for children was supposed to be held at Nelson Public Library, but was cancelled over safety concerns. (Credit: Ryan B. and DaMo Photography) Birkley Valks reads a story at a peaceful event held outside Nelson City Hall on March 11, the same day a drag storytime event for children was supposed to be held at Nelson Public Library, but was cancelled over safety concerns. (Credit: Ryan B. and DaMo Photography)
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A drag story time event for children that was postponed earlier this month in Nelson, B.C., is at the centre of multiple investigations into suspected hate crimes, according to local police.

The March 11 event was put on hold after organizers at the Nelson Public Library said protests had escalated into threats and intimidation tactics, prompting the police to get involved.

“There are several ongoing investigations related to incidents that occurred on or about March 11th, and all of these investigations are being treated as suspected hate-motivated incidents,” the Nelson Police Department wrote in a statement last Wednesday.

The release doesn’t detail how many incidents are under investigation, but the NPD says it plans to work with Crown prosecutors “to determine the most appropriate charges.”

“We understand this situation has caused distress to many in our community and we want you to know that we take these matters seriously,” reads the statement.

Birkley Valks, one of the storytellers who was set to perform on March 11, says he’s preparing to take legal action over online threats he’s received as a result of the event.

“I do worry for my wife and family,” Valks told CTV News Monday.

He says one Chilliwack resident in particular has been posting photos of his children—who are aged 10 months and 2.5 years—while harassing him over Facebook.

“Nelson police say they can’t do anything for me because criminally she hasn’t done anything wrong…every time she mis-genders me, that’s a hate crime,” he said.

Valks, who lives in nearby Castlegar, says he’s reached out to Mounties, MLAs and MPs in his city, as well as in Nelson and Chilliwack, in hopes of putting an end to the online attacks.

“Hopefully somebody does something,” Valks said. “I’m capable of tackling this and handling it personally, but there are a lot of people in their teen years that are just trying to find themselves, there are a lot of kids who are going to hear about this hate. I want to do whatever I can to stop that,” he continued.

On March 17, the City of Nelson released a statement in response to the drag story time event vitriol.

“We believe that our community should be a place where all members feel welcomed and accepted, regardless of their background or identities,” the release reads. “Council appoints the library board and has confidence in the decisions they make, including Drag Storytime.”

One day after that statement was released, one of the woman involved in a local group dubbed “Moms Against the Norm” stood outside City Hall, campaigning for B.C.’s SOGI 123 curriculum to be optional in schools.

In video posted online of Duggan’s speech, onlookers can be heard yelling “By you!” as she reads “Our children are being misused, abused and taken advantage of by the gender ideology sweeping our nation.”

Duggan told Rebel News that her group wrote to city hall on Feb. 15 with their concerns about the story time event, but says their emails were neither threatening nor violent in nature.

Valks describes his communication with Duggan as respectful, but adds “We’re never going to see eye to eye.”

In contrast, Valks says he’s been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from people in Nelson and beyond.

“People have messaged me from the states to say ‘I’m sorry this is happening to you and your community,’” Valks said.

After the library announced it was postponing the events over safety concerns, members of the community organized a peaceful counter event outside Nelson City Hall for March 11.

Valks performed some readings at that event, which he says was attended by 300 to 400 people.

“Not a single protester was there, it was complete joy and happiness,” Valks said.

He wants people to understand that drag story time events are supposed to be about literacy, love, acceptance and visibility.

“We just want to provide a safe space for love, knowledge understanding. If it doesn’t’ work for you, that’s totally fine, but we’re trying to provide a place for people who it does work for.”

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