Vancouver Island School Districts Sever Ties with Christian Camp Over Anti-Gay Stance

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Three school districts in Vancouver Island have decided to end their association with Camp Qwanoes, a renowned Christian summer camp based in Crofton, over its stance concerning homosexuality.

The Cowichan Valley, Nanaimo-Ladysmith, and Sooke school districts arrived at this decision to disassociate in the wake of 16-year-old Ryland Racicot speaking up against the camp’s staff agreement policies. “I was extremely disillusioned because I’ve visited the camp every summer for five to six years, longing for the day when I would be old enough to work here,” said Racicot. “Reading the conditions in the staff agreement was both shocking and profoundly disappointing.”

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According to Racicot, the staff contract stipulates that employees must abstain from behaviors that are deemed sinful in the Bible, which includes “homosexual behaviour.” Consequentially, Racicot declined the job offer and openly criticized the policy.

Referencing the camp’s message of ‘come as you are’ on their website, Racicot claims, “It is somewhat hurtful because the statement isn’t a reflection of their actual values. Being myself, I am not welcomed.”

His mother, Sylvia Webb, shared his sentiments, saying, “It was the first time that as a community, we didn’t feel safe about Ryland being who he is or for the safety of the LGBTQ youth.” Despite being practicing Anglican Christians themselves, Webb and her son uphold a belief in a God who embraces gay individuals.

On learning about the discriminatory terms in the contract, the Sooke school district superintendent Scott Stinson decided to cut all connections with the camp. He stated, “Once we became aware of the homophobic language in the contract, our district decided it was incongruent with our principles and ordered all our schools to cease any engagement with their facility.”

Refuting these accusations, Camp Qwanoes’ executive director, Scott Bayley, stated in an email that there had never been any concerns expressed about LGBTQ equality or religious beliefs at the camp. He claimed that requiring staff to express support and alignment with their Christian beliefs is both permitted and protected in Canada. “Religious freedom is a crucial component of Canadian society,” the statement read.

Webb, however, disputed this argument by highlighting the contrast between religious freedom and outright discrimination. In conclusion, Racicot and Webb expressed their gratitude for the public’s support and optimism that the camp would modify its staff agreement to embrace inclusivity and diversity.