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Maxime Bernier decries ‘leftist logic’ after Ottawa praises RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant

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People’s Party Leader Maxime Bernier sent a tweet Tuesday attacking what he called the “leftist logic” that praises female impersonators while branding white people who wear dreadlocks or blackface as racists or perpetrators of cultural appropriation.

​Bernier said it was illogical for drag artists wearing makeup and women’s clothing to be celebrated as a source of diversity while the actions of others — notably whites who adopt some of the physical characteristics of racial minorities — are demonized as discriminatory.

The source of Bernier’s angst is a tweet from the official Twitter account run by Global Affairs Canada that praised Toronto-based drag queen Brooke Lynn Hytes, who will be the first Canadian to appear on the Emmy-award winning reality program RuPaul’s Drag Race. That show sees drag queens compete for the title of America’s Next Drag Superstar.

“Canada is behind you as (you) strut your way towards becoming one fierce superstar!” the tweet reads.

Blackface has a long and complicated history in North America and is widely regarded as deeply offensive. Its origins date back to 19th century minstrel shows that saw white performers paint their faces a darker tone to mock black Americans.

The earliest of these shows ridiculed enslaved Africans on Southern plantations, depicting black people as lazy, ignorant, cowardly or hypersexual, according to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC).

‘Let’s provoke some head explosions’

The history of drag performance is murkier. Female impersonation has been a fixture of stage performances for generations.

Drag queens have been a fixture of gay bars in the West since at at least the post-Second World War era. Performers, typically gay men, dress in women’s clothing and sometimes impersonate famous ‘gay icons’ to entertain patrons.

After receiving backlash for his tweet, Bernier said: “Let’s provoke some head explosions among social justice warriors.” He also said blackface is a “non-existent phenomenon.”

The Quebec MP then re-tweeted a follower who said Bernier does not have “a problem with some dude throwing on a dress and makeup” but was merely highlighting “the left’s hypocrisy when it comes to standards of self-expression.”

Bernier, a self-described libertarian, has shown support for gay and lesbian Canadians in the past, publicly backing a change to the Conservative Party policy declaration that had defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

“Maxime supports constitutional equality for all, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or gender,” a note on his website reads.

When asked about Bernier’s tweet, a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada said it was proud to promote Hytes’ appearance on the TV program.

“The promotion and protection of the rights of LGBTQ2 people worldwide is a priority for our government, and we will continue to champion respect for diversity, inclusion and the human rights of all people everywhere,” he said.

The show in question is hosted by RuPaul Charles, a pioneering drag queen who helped bring the gender-bending performance art into the mainstream. He also has faced backlash for comments about trans women that some have called offensive.

Bernier condemned “agitated journalists” Tuesday for “freaking out” and making inquiries about a tweet he himself had sent only hours earlier, saying the media should instead focus on more important issues like his stance on pipeline development, equalization and corporate welfare.

It’s not the first time Bernier — who narrowly lost the last Conservative leadership race in 2017 before starting his own upstart populist party — has stirred the pot on social media as he looks to pry voters away from the other major parties ahead of October’s federal election.

Maxime Bernier, leader of the People’s Party of Canada joined Power & Politics to discuss his recent tweets, the party’s new candidate and China. 9:29

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List of Tourist Attractions Open Now in Ottawa

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With Ontario now in Step 3 of 2021 three-step plan for reopening, museums and other indoor attractions are allowed to reopen with capacity limited to not exceed 50 per cent capacity indoors and 75 per cent capacity outdoors.

Here is a list of Ottawa attractions you can visit starting July 16th.

Do remember to wear masks and buy tickets in advance.

Parliament Hill

Parliament’s Centre Block and Peace Tower are closed for renovation.

You can join for tours of the Senate of Canada Building (2 Rideau Street), House of Commons at West Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill, and East Block at East Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill.

When: Grounds open; guided tours of Parliament are suspended through the summer of 2021.
Where: 111 Wellington Street, Downtown Ottawa

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Ottawa performer leapfrogs from gymnastics to Broadway to TV

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A new AppleTV+ series set in a magical town that’s stuck in a neverending 1940s musical includes a pair of Ottawa siblings in the cast. 

Warren Yang and his sister, Ericka Hunter, play two of the singing, dancing residents of the village portrayed in Schmigadoon!, a small-screen series that takes its cues from classic musicals like Brigadoon, Wizard of Oz and Sound of Music, and skewers them with the offbeat comedic mastery of Saturday Night Live. 

In fact, you’ll recognize many of the names from SNL, starting with executive producer Lorne Michaels, creator of the late-night, live-comedy sketch show. Schmigadoon! also stars SNL cast member Cecily Strong and comedian Keegan-Michael Key, who hosted SNL in May. They play a New York couple who get lost on a hike and stumble into a strange town where everyone sings and dances. 

For Yang, a relative newcomer to show-biz, the series marks his television debut. For Hunter, the younger of his two older sisters, it’s the latest in a career path that began with dance lessons as a child more than 30 years ago. She attended Canterbury High School, Ottawa’s arts-focused secondary school. 

“Her dream was always to perform,” said Yang, 34, in an interview. “But that was never the path I thought was an option for me.” 

While his sister studied dance, Yang did gymnastics. He was an elite gymnast throughout his youth, ultimately leaving Merivale High School at 16 to train in Montreal, finishing high school through correspondence courses. He was a member of the Canadian National Team and received a scholarship to study at Penn State, majoring in marketing. 

A few years after graduation, Yang was working at an advertising agency in Toronto when he got a call from a Manhattan number. To his astonishment, they asked if he would be interested in auditioning for a Broadway revival of Miss Saigon.

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COVID-19: uOttawa to require vaccination for students living in residence

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Vaccination will be mandatory for students who want to live in residence at the University of Ottawa this year, with proof of vaccination and at least one dose required before move-in, or within two weeks of doing so if they can’t secure a shot before arriving.

Those who can’t receive a vaccine for “health-related reasons or other grounds protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code” will be able to submit a request for accommodation through the university’s housing portal, according to information on the university’s website.

Students with one dose living in residence will also have to receive their second dose “within the timeframe recommended by Ottawa Public Health.”

People who haven’t been granted an exemption and don’t get vaccinated or submit proof of having done so by the deadlines set out by the school will have their residence agreements terminated, uOttawa warns.

“Medical and health professionals are clear that vaccination is the most (effective) means of protecting people and those around them,” reads a statement provided to this newspaper by uOttawa’s director of strategic communications, Patrick Charette.

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“It is precisely for this reason that the University of Ottawa is requiring all students living in residence for the 2021-2022 academic year to be fully vaccinated. The University recognizes that some students may require accommodations for a variety of reasons and will be treating exceptions appropriately.”

Faculty, staff and students are also strongly encouraged to get vaccinated, the statement notes.

“Ensuring a high vaccine coverage in all communities is critical to ensuring an ongoing decline in cases and ending the pandemic. This will be especially important with the return of students to post-secondary institutions in our region in the fall of 2021.”

Neither Carleton University nor Algonquin College is currently mandating vaccination for students living in residence, according to the websites for both schools. But uOttawa isn’t alone in its policy – Western University, Trent University, Durham College and Fanshawe College have all implemented similar requirements. Seneca College, in the GTA, is going even further, making vaccination mandatory for students and staff to come to campus, in-person, for the fall term.

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