Three Jamaican singers booked to headline the Edmonton Reggae Festival later this summer in Canada, have found themselves at the heart of a controversy that centres on gay rights and freedom of speech.
Queen Ifrica, Capleton and I-Wayne have all been accused of making anti-gay statements or having anti-gay lyrics in their dancehall songs. The three are booked to headline the festival in September.
But the controversy has prompted a complaint to the Hate Crimes Unit of the Edmonton police – with sponsors pulling their support from the festival.
In 2013, at an independence celebration, Queen Ifrica declared to a crowd of patriotic Jamaicans, “all a di ppl wah inna di national stadium, put up yuh han inna di air, all straight people, man an’ woman mi seh.”
Those words forced her removal from the line-up of two international festivals in 2013 and have have now returned to haunt her.
It all started, when the Jamaican Association of Gays and Lesbians Abroad, JAGLA, raised concerns that promoters in Canada are still inviting anti-gay artistes to perform in the country, given their beliefs and refusal to express remorse for their lyrics.
I-Wayne features a song titled ‘burn down Sodom’
JGLA has also raised concerns because they say Queen Ifrica subsequently voiced lyrics deemed anti-gay despite being removed from the festivals.
Now, Chris Wells from the University of Alberta says he wants the Hate Crime Unit of the Edmonton police to investigate.
Meanwhile, the festival’s in a response on Facebook says it’ll respond soon to the controversy.
But even as that response is yet to come, 1-sponsor, HOT 107 has pulled its sponsorship support, telling the media, that another sponsor, Global News, has indicated that they too will be pulling their support.
“We were receiving a number of growing concerns from our listener base that their feelings would be hurt because of the particular views that the three headlining artistes may or may have not said. I don’t know if that is public as yet but Global [News] has told me that they will be doing the same thing,” said Troy Scott, programme director at Hot 107.
Critics say Capleton and I-Wayne have song lyrics that condemn same-sex relationships and encourage violence against the LGBTQ community.
An I-Wayne song called ‘Burn Down Sodom’ includes anti-gay lyrics
There are now calls for festival organizers to drop the three acts and for the various levels of government to get involved. Canadian human rights activist Murray Billett, who’s also a former member of the Edmonton police commission, says its extremely disappointing that in 2015 this issue still has to be dealt with.
Billet says homophobia is wrong, no matter who is delivering the message.
Billet and others have called on fans to boycott the festival unless organizers make changes to the lineup. A senior policy analyst with the Canadian HIV/AIDS legal network, Maurice Tomlinson, says organizers should not be rewarding the artistes with Canadians’ money.
Tomlinson, a Jamaican, says the artistes are able to use the money paid to them to maintain their lifestyle and their approach to anti-gay campaigning in Jamaica. Efforts to contact the artistes for a response were unsuccessful.