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Who is afraid of Barbadas?

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Barbada is a drag queen very popular in Montreal. In addition to performing in the Village bars, he has been presenting children’s stories in Quebec’s public libraries for several years.

Posted at 7:07 am

This character created by Sébastien Potvin is so popular that a series of ten programs was produced for ICI Tou.tv. I told you about it in a column last March.

A few months ago, Sébastien Potvin was invited to offer story time in the two libraries of the Municipality of Saint-Laurent (Du Boisé and Vieux-Saint-Laurent). Meetings with the little ones must take place in November.

The management of the libraries in this district had long wanted to welcome the Barbadas. The autumn program of the establishments was recently presented to the city council.

When the five elected officials of Saint-Laurent saw the name Barbada on the list of activities, their heads filled with questions, apprehensions and fears.

Ouch! Voters shouldn’t be disappointed! Ouch! We shouldn’t shock conservative citizens.

It should be noted, before going further, that the municipality of Saint-Laurent is governed by a council entirely composed of members of the Montréal Ensemble: Alan DeSousa (mayor), Aref Salem (leader of the official opposition), Vana Nazarian, Jacques Cohen and Annie Gagnier.

According to a librarian I spoke to who prefers to remain anonymous, the decision to cancel the event was made a few days ago. It was irrevocable.

This council decision sowed “anger” among some library operators. “The staff are outraged,” the employee told me. It is intolerance, it is censorship. ”

Employees have a hard time understanding this position, because the Montreal City Management tells them to propose activities and initiatives that promote diversity and inclusion.

Monday morning I wanted to speak to Alan DeSousa. I wanted to know how things had gone and what were the reasons for this decision. A few hours later, I had him online. He avoided all my questions about how elected officials came to close the door on this double event.

Instead, he told me that he and other elected officials would meet with Sébastien Potvin (at the suggestion of the latter and the library management) to discuss the observations that will be made during story time. “Let it be a drag queen not a problem for us, he told me. We are mainly concerned about the topics that will be discussed and which may be sensitive. ”

I repeat: the Barbada who makes savory jokes at 2 am in the Village bars is diametrically opposed to the one who settles on a stool in front of the children on Saturday morning.


PHOTO ROBERT SKINNER, LA PRESSE ARCHIVE

Barbados

I asked Sébastien Potvin to give me examples of stories he reads to children. There are The crocodile who was afraid of water. It tells the story of a crocodile who, falling into the water, starts sneezing. Sneezing, he starts breathing fire. The crocodile then realizes that he is a dragon. That’s why he was afraid of water.

There is also Ada, the surly in a tutu, by Élise Gravel, about a little girl who doesn’t like the dance lessons that are imposed on her. She discovers a passion for karate. And then there is The princess and the ponywhich plunges us into Prunelle’s dream, who wants a muscular horse to become a warrior.

You can imagine the scene: Sébastien Potvin will meet with the elected municipal officials of the Quebec metropolis to tell them that he will tell stories of crocodiles and princesses to children and that he will not tell them about dicks, balls and names!

Do we need to be reassured at this point? It seems so.

If there is one message that Barbada conveys to children through her stories, it is: you can be who you really are in life! It’s not cool, is it?

Alan DeSousa reminded me that “living together” was “invented” in his village. He also pointed out in passing that his village is made up of a great cultural diversity.

Precisely, if this neighborhood has known about “living together” for decades, shouldn’t it be open to this reality? Barbada isn’t the only drag queen in the world to present stories to children. Those interested in what is happening elsewhere know very well what it is.

What bothers me about this extreme caution is that elected officials want to decide what is good or bad for citizens’ morals. Nobody is obliged to go and see Barbada in a library. Can parents be left to decide what is good or bad for their children?

It is not the first time that Barbada’s passage in libraries has created upheaval. Last June, the announcement of her arrival in Dorval sparked some derogatory comments on social networks. As a precaution, the organizers of the event called the carabinieri to make sure that everything was fine.

This fear, this damned fear of being afraid, of being sorry, of shaking well-meaning ideas, of creating a storm on social networks, this is what led the five elected officials of Saint-Laurent to collectively step on the brake.

While it would have been much easier to get information, to trust the library managers who came up with this idea and, above all, to rely on the common sense of citizens. Those who are open minded.

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