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Multiple school districts cut ties with popular Vancouver Island Christian summer camp over 'homophobic language' in staff contract

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Three school districts have cut ties with Camp Qwanoes, a popular Christian summer camp in Crofton on Vancouver Island over its views on homosexuality.

The Cowichan Valley, Nanaimo-Ladysmith and Sooke school districts made the decision to sever ties this summer after 16-year-old Ryland Racicot, who was offered a job there, spoke out against the camp's staff agreement.

"I was very disappointed, and frankly, I was quite shocked," he told CTV News.

"It was a dream for so long. For like five to six years, I come here every summer and think, 'Wow! I can’t wait till I’m old enough and I get to do this.' And then just read the fine print of the staff agreement and it’s just shocking and so disappointing," he continued.

He said according to the contract, staff are expected to "refrain from practices which are condemned by God in the Bible," including "homosexual behaviour."

So Racicot rejected the job offer and spoke out against it.

"On their website, it says come as you are and I think that that’s almost like hurtful to read because it’s not true, because I have physically as myself, and I am not allowed to go," he said.

"It was the first time that Ryland and I didn’t feel safe with him being who he is in our community," said his mother Sylvia Webb.

"We didn’t feel safe for the LGTBQ youth," she added.

The mother and son say they are practicing Anglican Christians.

"We both believe in a God that loves gay people and it’s as simple as that," said Webb.

Scott Stinson, the superintendent of the Sooke school district, decided to cut ties with the camp since the contract came to light.

“Once we’re aware that there is some discriminatory language in there [that was] homophobic language, as a school district, we made a decision that that’s not consistent with our values and so we have instructed our schools not to engage in using their facility," he said.

In an emailed statement, Camp Qwanoes executive director Scott Bayley said "there has never been a concern expressed to us relating to LGBTQ equality or religious beliefs."

“Requiring staff to indicate their support of and agreement with our Christian beliefs as a condition for employment is allowed for and protected in Canada," he continued.

“Religious freedom is an important part of Canadian society," the statement read.

But Webb disagreed, saying, "There’s a very big difference between religious freedom and discrimination."

Racicot and Webb say they are both very thankful for the public's support and hope the camp changes its staff agreement to be more inclusive and diverse.

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