Organizers of the fifth annual Fraser Valley Taboo Naughty But Nice Show have cancelled the Abbotsford show, citing restrictive liquor bylaws, as well as opposition from some in the local Christian community.
"We felt that due to the prohibitive liquor rules that govern that area the guest experience is negatively impacted, and the brand experience we create in various markets across Canada would be hampered and impacted as well," Sean Libin, marketing vice-president for Canwest Productions, which produces the event. "The ability of people to enjoy liquor throughout the show is something they do in every market, so why not Abbotsford?"
For the previous four shows, attendees were able to consume alcohol only in a certain area of the venue.
Libin notes that alcohol is allowed on the floor at the other seven Taboo shows in Western Canada, including Vancouver.
The event is held at the Fraser Valley Trade and Exhibition Centre (also known as Tradex), a city-owned facility that is operated by the Tourism Abbotsford Society. Libin says they have been working with Tradex to resolve the issue for years.
Tourism Abbotsford executive director Dan Stefanson says he recognizes the limitations imposed on shows like Taboo and others and is working to have the liquor licence modified. He believes that the city and the BC Liquor Distribution Branch will approve the changes but does not expect it to happen in time for March.
In a press release, Canwest also acknowledges a backlash to the Taboo event from an "increasingly vocal group of Christian fundamentalists" they say is led in large part by former Abbotsford mayoral candidate Gerda Peachey, who spoke against the show at an Abbotsford city council meeting Feb 6.
In her 13-minute speech, Peachey asked whether councillors have "no responsibility to make some minimal standards of decency for buildings that are owned by us, the public."
"Tradex is in a publicly owned building," Peachey said. "It is owned by me and everybody else in this city, and you. And so is the public library, and it, too, rents out its facilities to private people for private events, and so is this facility right here. This auditorium. Can you conceive ever of renting this facility to a mini version of the Taboo Naughty But Nice sex show? It makes me ill to think of it."
Peachey, who describes herself as an evangelical Christian, says the show conflicts with biblical principles of sexuality.
"I completely believe God created us all and he wants what is best for humanity, and I truly believe he has given guidelines for essentially everything in life but most certainly made men and women for each other," she says. "For me, I think that all departures from this one man, one woman in marriage, all departures from that is something that harms us. It doesn't enhance our life here on earth."
Libin says that Peachey, who has never attended the show, may have an inaccurate impression of the event.
"If she did come to our show, she'd see it's not debauchery or Sodom and Gomorrah," he says. "It's a really accurate cross section of the community representing all makeups of the community who come together for an evening of fun, education and entertainment. You'll see everything is done in a very tasteful and classy way."
Little Sister's co-owner Jim Deva believes that only a vocal minority are opposed to these events. "We've dealt with it for many, many years and it's a very vocal minority, and I think the people responsible should put it into perspective how many people they are and where is it coming from."
Government can't enact our laws from a religious-right perspective, he adds.
Deva describes Taboo as one of the healthiest public events in the province. "It gets couples talking about sexuality," he says. "Some very, very important stuff goes on at Taboo, and it's extremely healthy. There are very few situations where couples can walk around and talk about sex."