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Okanagan library management staff to get sensitivity training following drag queen dispute

The move comes after the president of the board made comments about a drag queen storytelling event
One of the drag queen storytelling events at the library. (Jen Zielinski- Kelowna Capital News)

Okanagan Regional Library (ORL) president Don Nettleton and the management team will undergo sensitivity and diversity training following comments made about a drag queen storytelling event.

The incident arose in September when Nettleton sent out a memo about a new storytelling event planned for the Kelowna downtown library where drag queens would be reading stories to children during story time sessions on Saturdays in September and again in November.

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“A controversial and potentially very divisive story time program has arisen within the ORL,” Nettleton said in the memo dated Sept. 18.

“Almost half of the leadership team was strongly in support of the library being involved in this type of programming … while the other half of the leadership team saw offering such a program target at three to six year olds as inappropriate for their age.”

In the memo, Nettleton went on to say that the event would also receive criticism from the Kelowna community.

“The announced program, while claiming to be promoting diversity and acceptance, will be offensive to a significant segment of our society,” Nettleton said.

“These two story times are set to take place in a core program aimed at very young children. The age of this programming will be concerning to many.”

In response to his memo, the library received about 350 pieces of correspondence from the community reflecting opinions both in favour and against the planned story time events.

Michal Utko, director of marketing and community with ORL, confirmed cultural programming at the library — including the drag queen story telling event — will continue as is for the foreseeable future

He also said the sensitivity training for the management team will occur shortly.

“It hasn’t been scheduled yet. It will be something happens sooner than later, and no later than next month.”

Despite the controversy, drag queen story telling events aren’t new to Kelowna.

Indigo Kelowna has been offering drag queen story time events with iconic drag queens like “Daisy Confused” and “Freida Whales” for at least two years.


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