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Rainbow pandering to politics by nixing drag show, student says

Public school board backs out of planned event, but Collège Boréal offers space so the Courage Across Canada Tour can still go ahead as planned
The Courage Across Canada Tour, an educational drag show, was supposed to visit Lo-Ellen Park Secondary in Sudbury in February, but the Rainbow District School Board cancelled the event. Collège Boréal has stepped in to offer space so the show can go ahead as planned.

The Rainbow District School Board announced this week the board has officially decided it will not be hosting a drag event that was supposed to take place at Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School on Feb. 10.

The show in question is called the Courage Across Canada Tour, and features Icesis Couture, winner of Canada’s Drag Race, along with other drag performers. It is presented by the International Day of Pink.

The tour will be visiting 10 communities, sharing drag and stories at local schools by day, and celebrating with free performances at local venues by night.

The Sudbury stop is on Feb. 10, with a show set to take place at Zig’s that evening. 

The Courage Tour was also supposed to put on a show at Lo-Ellen on Feb. 10, but the board put the brakes on the show last month.

The performance had not gone through the proper board approval process, said the Rainbow board, adding that it was gathering more information on the proposed show.

The board revealed its final decision on the drag show in a press release issued Jan. 31.

“Rainbow District School Board met with the organizer of the International Day of Pink,” said the board, in the press release.

“There is agreement that the board will focus its efforts on its existing events in support of students and will not participate in the tour. The organizer is currently considering a community-based event during the evening of February 10, 2023.”

In the press release, the board highlighted its participation in other upcoming events supporting the 2S-LGBTQ+ community, including the annual Classroom Closet and Free to be Me conferences.

“Rainbow Schools have a long history of embracing diversity and will work with GSAs (referring to gay-straight alliances) and community partners to grow these efforts through the upcoming conferences,” the press release said.

While the Courage Tour drag show will not be taking place at Lo-Ellen, has learned that Collège Boréal will be hosting the performance at the Sudbury campus’ Trisac Hall starting at 4 p.m. on Feb. 10. The show will be open to all ages.

“Boréal strives to be an inclusive, positive, safe space for everyone,” said an emailed statement from the college.

“We had a venue available that could accommodate this event on the date that the tour was to come to town, so we offered it and our offer was accepted. We are pleased that the offer was accepted and look forward to the event taking place here.”

An online petition started by a Grade 11 Lo-Ellen student last month that demanded that the Rainbow board reinstate the drag event had more than 2,000 signatures as of early Wednesday afternoon.

That student, Ra’Jah Mohamed, told in January that the event was planned by a Lo-Ellen staff member, and everyone had been under the impression that it had been approved.

While he said the board putting the brakes on the show was a “slap in the face,” he was hopeful last month it would be reinstated. reached out to Mohamed again this week, after learning the Rainbow board had decided Lo-Ellen would definitely not be hosting the Courage tour.

“The Rainbow District School Board’s decision to cancel the Courage Tour is political,” Mohamed said, in an emailed statement.

He said that upon discussing the reasoning behind the board’s decision to cancel the event, officials claimed the speakers were “hypersexual.”

Mohamed said this claim is “unfounded considering there was no talk of sex in the script and all clothing to be worn was modest, the clothing being a blazer and a long dress with a cape.”

He said this argument “weaponizes an age-old stereotype about the queer community, a stereotype that queer people are overtly sexual.”

“This decision panders to the minority of people who disagree with the event, people who disagree for various reasons, a big one being simply homophobia,” he said.

Mohamed referenced the large number of signatures to his petition, saying “the board chose to ignore those voices.”

He also spoke about the board’s references to hosting and participating in upcoming conferences aimed at the 2S-LGBTQ+ community. 

“The claim that they support queerness with their own events is performative, using queer identities as tokens and monoliths to their own inclusion, equity and diversity, without even advertising those events,” Mohamed said.

“The wide majority of students have not even heard of these conferences. These talks and summits are used to put on the image of willingness to change, to become more equitable without actual follow-through.”

In terms of the Collège Boréal show, Mohamed said “this generous and courageous show of support means the world to queer youth like me and my peers. 

“I was shocked and overjoyed when I heard that Collège Boréal would host the event. Actions speak louder than words.” reached out to the Rainbow board for more information on their decision regarding the drag event, as well as to respond to Mohamed’s statements about the board.

We requested an interview with the board on the issues raised by Mohamed regarding Rainbow’s decision to cancel, but instead received an emailed statement, as seen below in its entirety, that does not address any of the questions asked by

“The Board's decision was based on educational content and our commitment to focus on our existing events including the Classroom Closet in just over two weeks and Free to Be Me conference this spring which provide full days of workshops with appropriate supports for students,” said the Rainbow board’s written statement.

“Creating safe, accepting, and welcoming school environments guides our work in equity and inclusion. We are committed to growing these efforts in partnership with our students and our community.

“We have a long history of participating in the Classroom Closet and presenting the Free to Be Me Conference (formerly Dare to Stand Out since 2009.) 

“Our work in equity and inclusive education is thoughtful, purposeful, intentional and inclusive of the 2SLGBTQ+ community and allies. The Equity and Inclusive Education Committee oversees this work.

“We work in partnership with our school-based GSAs and the 2SLGBTQ+ community to engage students in valued educational experiences of interest to them and will continue to do so through the educational conferences that we have participated in and presented for many years.”

Heidi Ulrichsen is’s associate content editor. She also covers education and the arts scene.


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