A government funded classical music festival in Quebec has tapped children’s drag show performer Barbada de Barbades as an official spokesperson for its 94th edition.
Barbada is the drag personification of elementary school teacher Sebastien Potvin. He has been doing story hours for young children since 2016, as previously reported by True North.
His appointment as Festival des harmonies et orchestres symphoniques du Québec spokesperson comes amid an ongoing debate in the province about whether drag shows for kids should be funded by taxpayers and held in libraries, schools and daycares.
Festival director Claudine Roussel told Radio Canada, “the message that is carried by (the drag queen) is the message that our young people send us.”
“We were looking at the 1929 photo of the first Festival where there are only men. There was an evolution that took place, and this evolution has brought us to where we are today. We are extremely proud to carry this message of diversity.”
Meanwhile, the drag performer said, “We must continue… because what we do is perfectly in line with Quebec’s values of inclusion, openness and diversity.”
The artist will perform two drag queen story hours for children at the festival, in addition to participating in a workshop and an award ceremony.
The music festival recently received $55,500 from the Quebec Government. Other sponsors and partners include the City of Sherbrooke, the University of Sherbrooke, Desjardins Bank and Yamaha Canada.
Last month, the Quebec National Assembly adopted a motion from the left-wing Quebec Solidaire (QS) party that denounced opposition to drag shows for kids – sparking a debate on the issue.
Conservative Party of Quebec leader Eric Duhaime, who is openly gay, said taxpayers should not be funding these events. He launched a petition titled “Protect Our Children” that calls on governments to cease all funding for drag shows for children and respect parental consent.
Multiple prominent Quebec media figures, including columnists and radio hosts, have also spoken out against the presence of drag queens in libraries, schools and daycares – with some saying the latter is sexual, and others implying that drag queens are caricatures of women.
When asked about the classical music festival’s choice of spokesperson, Duhaime told True North, “the concern I have and the concern that many other Quebecers have is that it’s gonna be funded again by taxpayers.”
Duhaime added that platforming Potvin’s drag persona is also “not acceptable” from the perspective of a parent “who doesn’t want to expose their kids to such things.”
Potvin’s drag queen story hours are meant for kids three to six years old, but says, “younger children are welcome.” The artist has also been the host of a Radio-Canada children’s music show – and has made videos introducing children to gender ideology.
In an exclusive interview with True North last summer, Potvin defended his actions – claiming the drag queen story hours he does are age-appropriate.
“It’s important (for children) to see and understand and know… any type of art, any type of job… especially in a world where they will be living with so many different people from so many different views,” said Potvin.
He added that if children are not exposed to drag queens in a “family friendly” manner, they will eventually be exposed to regular, more mature forms of drag. “If I don’t do it, you know, be in a very respectful way for the kids… they’re gonna learn anyways,” said Potvin. “They’re gonna see stuff on TV. They’re gonna see stuff online, they’re gonna see stuff on Instagram.”
The Festival des harmonies et orchestres symphoniques du Québec takes place May 18-21 in the town of Sherbrooke.
Neither the festival or Potvin’s agent responded to True North’s request for comment in time for publication.