U of A cancels Edmonton LGBTQ camp, will pilot provincial camp in Canmore

The University of Alberta has cancelled Edmonton's Camp fYrefly, a retreat for LGBTQ2s+ youth, and will consolidate the city's camp into a provincial one in Canmore.

Camp fYrefly was founded in Edmonton by Kristopher Wells and André Grace in 2004

Edmonton's Camp fYrefly will be consolidated into Calgary's to make a provincial camp this summer.

The University of Alberta has cancelled Edmonton's Camp fYrefly, a retreat for LGBTQ2s+ youth, and will consolidate the city's camp into a provincial one in Canmore.

Faculty of Education dean Jennifer Tupper confirmed the consolidation Thursday night, calling it a pilot project that would mirror the other provincial Camp fYrefly events in Saskatchewan and Ontario.

"Because we have had some other issues we've been trying to work through, we wanted to be sure that the youth had the best possible experience at Camp fYrefly," Tupper told CBC News Thursday night.

Tupper would not elaborate on what the "other issues" were.

Camp fYrefly was founded in 2004 in Edmonton by Kristopher Wells and André Grace in an effort to help LGBTQ2s+ youth develop leadership and personal resiliency skills to help them affect positive change. The camp expanded to Calgary in 2012.

Damien McAndrews works alongside the U of A's Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services as a member of the youth action committee. The committee sent out a news release on Thursday to say the camp had been "shut down." The committee was involved with the planning of previous Edmonton Camp fYrefly events.

He said the committee believes the consolidation and laying off of local staff was the university's way to avoid taking accountability for allegations of racism and misogyny.

"This came completely out of the blue for basically everyone at iSMSS and it feels like the university is trying to do damage control," McAndrews said Thursday night.

Asked about the allegations referenced in the committee's news release, Tupper said she was not aware of them.

The youth action committee was formed in late 2016 to add a youth voice to the plans of the annual camp. But McAndrews said this year, iSMSS began making decisions that the committee normally made — including selecting an artist in residence.

"We were quite mad that this person who had never really had anything to do with camps before was making choices without consulting us," he said.

But Tupper said iSMSS has been regularly consulted, specifically through the restructuring process.

Jennifer Tupper is the dean of the University of Alberta's Faculty of Education. (U of A Faculty of Education)

The institute is currently undergoing some restructuring, which would see a new executive director hired in July 2018 and the current executive directors,  Wells and Grace, move into research roles.

The two current executive directors would be on committees but would have much less control in their new roles come July.

The youth action committee, which McAndrews said is officially dissolved due to the consolidation, said they are still looking at organizing a camp for local LGBTQ2s+ youth from July 26 to July 30 this year.

The consolidated Camp fYrefly will take place in Canmore from June 30 to July 3 this year.