Feature Story, Canada
A lot has changed since ted northe stood on the steps on the Vancouver Courthouse in a dress over sixty years ago protesting for equal rights, when drag queens were pelted with eggs outside the St. Charles Tavern on Yonge Street in Toronto, and police were closing off lower Stanley Street in Montreal, home of the Lime Light Disco in the 1970’s.
At the forefront of LGBTQ+ rights, Canada’s drag community has been both visible and vocal in challenging the status quo over the years. In addition to his many areas of social activism starting in the 1950’s, ted northe was the founder of the Imperial Court System of Canada, and is also known as the Empress of Canada. The Vancouver chapter, The Dogwood Monarchist Society, is regarded as the Mother Court of Canada, and is part of the part of the International Court System, with chapters in Vancouver, Surrey, Edmonton, Calgary, Regina, Winnipeg, Toronto, Hamilton/Niagara, London, and Halifax. The International Court System has over seventy chapters in the USA, Canada, and Mexico, with each court electing Monarchs annually, including an Empress, an Emperor, and/or an Emprex (gender neutral). Monarchs have mandates of raising funds for charity throughout their year, by way of hosting numerous fundraising events, and culminating in a glamourous Coronation Ball at the end of their reign.
Drag queens are also the highlight of many regular and special shows in bars from coast to coast throughout the year, at locations such as Menz and Mollyz Bar in Halifax, Cabaret Mado in Montreal, Le Drague Cabaret Club in Quebec City, The Lookout Bar in Ottawa, Woody’s, Crew & Tangos, and El Convento Rico in Toronto, Lavish Nightclub in London, Absinthe Hamilton, Fame Nightclub in Winnipeg, Divas Nightclub in Saskatoon, Twisted Element and Lolita's Lounge in Calgary, Evolution Wonderlounge in Edmonton, The Junction, Celebrities Nightclub and 1181 in Vancouver, and Paparazzi Nightclub in Victoria, to name a few.
Drag has also gone corporate in a big way in Canada, with major banks and corporations hiring drag queens to represent them in pride parades, at signature events, and on staff as diversity advisers. Brand name hotel chains have hired drag queen ambassadors, and some airlines have hired representatives in drag for special promotions.
Ru Paul has also taken drag to the mainstream worldwide with Ru Paul’s Drag Race, and Canada is now also very much part of the action, with many stars from the show touring across Canada, and venues hosting regular viewing events. Canada’s Brooke Lynn Hytes was the first Canadian on the show, and took second place in season eleven. It was also announced last fall that Brooke Lynn Hytes will be a permanent judge on Season 1 of the Canadian series, Canada’s Drag Race, along with supermodel Stacey McKenzie, and Canadian actor Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman. The series will air on Bell Media's streaming platform Crave and OutTV in Canada in 2020.