A northern Ontario camp for LGBTQ youth is expanding its programming to Canada’s east coast this summer.
Rainbow Camp opened in 2012 near Thessalon, Ont., and provides a safe space for young LGBTQ people between the ages of eight and 18.
Programming includes more traditional outdoor camp activities such as canoeing, hiking and swimming, along with sessions on coming out, a trans 101 program and sessions on things like chest binding – compressing breast tissue to give the appearance of a flat chest.
“Part of the magic of Rainbow Camp really is seeing the growth of the campers,” said Mallory Brennan, Rainbow Camp’s assistant to the executive director.
“You can see a noticeable difference between the campers who arrived at the start of the week and then the campers who left at the end of the week,” Brennan said. “They often arrive really shy, elemental, trying to figure themselves out in many ways experiencing the typical challenges of being a teenager, but mixed with, you know, challenges of gender identity.”
This year Rainbow Camp has partnered with Camp Kidston, in Middle Musquodoboit, NS, to bring their programming to young people in Atlantic Canada.
Brennan said Rainbow Camp has had campers from Atlantic Canada in the past, but for many the distance to northeastern Ontario is a big barrier.
More opportunities in Atlantic Canada
Camp Kidston executive director Janice Noble told CBC’s Information Morningthey have made it a priority to create a safe space for LGBTQ youth and the partnership with Rainbow Camp will help them expand on those efforts.
“One of our core values of our camp is to build an intentionally inclusive community where everybody feels welcome and everybody feels safe,” Noble said.
The camp has an all-gender cabin and also has gender neutral washrooms.
But Noble said there are fewer programs and opportunities for LGBTQ youth on the east coast compared to provinces like Ontario and British Columbia.
“On a larger level [we’re] looking at the region that we live in to make sure that there’s lots of opportunities for queer use that I might not have had when I was growing up,” she said.
Young people from Canada’s Atlantic provinces will have priority when applying to Camp Kidston.