Former Camp fYrefly Edmonton members launch summer camp for LGBTQ+ youth in Alberta with social justice focus
By: Robyn Welsh, Publishing Editor
After the University of Alberta announced that Camp fYrefly would be closing, former members of fYrefly’s Youth Action Committee (YAC) launched an alternative camp called Queer Scouts YEG. The camp has a for youth by youth mindset and is focused on empowering LGBTQ+ youth by equipping them with the skills to organize for social justice in their communities.
The overnight camp will run from July 23 to 29 on the Pigeon Lake site where fYrefly was located for the last two years. Applications are now open for youth between the ages of 14 and 24.
Former university staff member and Camp fYrefly coordinator Claire Edwards says, “creating spaces for queer and trans young people to be together is so life-affirming and important.”
Queer Scouts will be limiting the organization’s decision making to youth, with a board of solely young people. This decision is founded in the conflict surrounding the closing of Camp fYrefly. Edwards says conflict started when the camp director began making decisions such as selecting an artist of residence who was not LGBTQ+ without consulting the youth: a distinction that is important for mentorship opportunities. The director also made the decision to allow armed police officers at the camp, which the youth felt was quite inconsiderate considering the vast number of discussions surrounding police violence and oppression in the LGBTQ+ community. Youth were also resisting the creation of a parent oversight committee that would put a check on their power. The conflict escalated from there. After a meeting with the involved parties, Edwards was laid off and the camp was shut down.
“I’m trying not to let what happened with the old camp dwarf what we are doing with the new camp. But it’s sort of hard to speak to our philosophy and why we’re structured in the way we are, our views on youth work, without referencing that conflict,” says Edwards.
“In planning this camp we really want to show young people everywhere that the way we are dealing with this blow, or tragedy, is by knowing that we can do this ourselves,” says Edwards. “We don’t need to rely on a big university or a big non-profit or corporation to give us money to do it, the only way that we’re going to be successful is by really engaging our community in a grassroots way.”
The organizers have taken fundraising into their own hands. If you’re interested in helping out, visit the Queer Scouts Go Fund Me page at https://ca.gofundme.com/queer-scouts-yeg-camp-2018.
Queer Scouts is still searching for volunteers to lead skill based workshops on topics from social justice and anti-oppression, to nature, arts and crafts, cooking meals and more.
The camp is the first initiative under their mother company, the Prairie Youth Radical Organizing School (PYROS). PYROS aims to build a coalition of youth who want to make a change in the prairies. They welcome youth who are interested in climate justice, migrant justice, anti-poverty initiatives or other change-making. Participants in Queer Scouts and future PYROS initiatives will learn skills surrounding organizing protests, changing policies, running for office and designing campaigns.
Edwards says that PYROS hopes to build more opportunities for youth to come together in one room, regardless of the social issue they are trying to tackle. “We want Queer Scouts to be a part of a larger movement that’s really rooted in place. We’re really proud to be from the prairies. We want to name that because there aren’t a lot of stories or representation of queer people on the prairies,” Edwards says.
“I just hope that young people watching, whether they’re queer or not realize that if there’s a support, or something that your community needs, you can create it. You don’t need to wait for someone else to make it for you,” Edwards says. “We really want this organization, maybe unlike other camps like camp fYrefly, to be truly community held. Not to be subject to the whim of an institution like the university, but to be really held by the community.”
Queer Scouts is still accepting campers. If you or someone you know is interested, visit their website at https://queerscoutsyeg.tumblr.com/.
The Queer Scout badge in our featured image is designed by an artist named Mary Tremonte from the states. Photo courtesy of Claire Edwards