Daenis Camire: Bringing resources and support for LGBTIQ students in Northern Ontario

In brief

Daenis Camire

Watson Lake has a population of 1200 and student enrollment at Watson Lake Secondary School totals 90. About 75% of the student body is Kaska First Nation. A review was conducted in May 2012 and students indicated that bullying and racism were concerns in their school. In response, a student researcher at Lakehead University recently introduced a population-based health resource tool to address the lack of resources and support LGBTIQ students had at Watson Lake Secondary School and Johnson Elementary School.

EENet has developed a Student Spotlight on Daenis Camire’s work. Student Spotlights are brief profiles of up-and-coming student researchers.

Read it below or download the PDF.

About Daenis

Daenis Camire graduated with a BSc Nursing from Lakehead University. He implemented a population-based health resource tool (PBHRT) that addressed a gap in resources for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgendered/Two-spirited/Transsexual, Intersex, Queer and Questioning youth (LGBTIQ) developed during a clinical rotation in Watson Lake, a remote community in the Yukon.

Daenis has been accepted into the medical program at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine West Campus at Lakehead University. He will begin his studies in August 2013.

What Is Daenis’ research about?

Watson Lake has a population of 1200 and student enrolment at Watson Lake Secondary School totals 90. About 75% of the student body is Kaska First Nation. A review was conducted in May 2012 and students indicated that bullying and racism were concerns in their school.

Daenis introduced a population-based health resource tool to address the lack of resources and support LGBTIQ students had at Watson Lake Secondary School and Johnson Elementary School. In September 2012 the Yukon Department of Education had passed the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity policy. There were many issues involving harassment, assaults, deaths, and suicides attributed to gender orientation; the teachers at Watson Lake Secondary School and Johnson Elementary School were ready to address the issues but were not sure how to get started.

With the support of the schools’ principals, Daenis set up meetings and educational sessions with the teachers and school council to establish a common vision and bring them on board. He sought out the help of the Chief of Liard First Nation (LFN) through his involvement with the Canadian Ranger Unit. The Chief recommended that Daenis give a presentation to the LFN Health and Education staff. During the high school’s weekly clinic days, Daenis built up trusting relationships with the students and many of them provided him with ideas to get the LGBTIQ initiative underway. A local RCMP officer assisted with engaging the community in supporting the LGBTIQ initiative.

The activities provided an opportunity to educate the students and staff in a fun and interactive way and to encourage conversations about the challenges that LGBTIQ youth had at the school. In order to ensure that the tool would be useful over the long term Daenis worked with others in the territory to establish Gay/Straight Alliances (GSA), establish safe spaces, and promote acceptance.

Daenis used a four-step process to engage all levels of the community. Following presentations to the school staff and community leaders, Daenis implemented awareness events that included a progressive bulletin board, gender-based movie nights, and lunch time activities. Posters, pamphlets, and coasters were obtained from PRIDE and the Gender Issues Centre at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay. Connections were made with F.H. Collins Secondary School administration, located in Whitehorse, and GSA in order to obtain the Ally Pledge, anti-bullying materials, and bracelets. Students were encouraged to make an Ally Pledge to combat homophobia and then sign a poster to indicate their support of the initiative. Copies were posted in designated safe spaces and the GSA room at the school. A resource toolkit binder was developed for elementary and secondary school teachers as well as a toolkit for GSA.

Brenda Barnes, Communications and Program Director of the Women’s Directorate in Whitehorse was invited to participate. Her lunch-time presentation, “Gender Stereotypes, Bullying, and Violence” was attended by 53 students in grades 8-12.

Over 30 youth signed up on the first day for the GSA at Watson Lake Secondary School. The principal declared the week-long event a success; on a usual day, many of the students did not stay for the afternoon classes. But Daenis’ activities motivated students to finish the full day of school. After Daenis left Watson Lake, the school observed International Day of Pink and Day of Silence in April 2013, organized an anti-bullying day Harlem Shake, and hosted a spaghetti dinner fundraiser with the money going towards future GSA initiatives.

What’s next for Daenis?

Daenis has connected with Watson Lake Secondary School staff at various times to find out how the resources are being used to support the LGBTIQ community at the school. He has created a Facebook account in order to keep in touch with the students and he has connected with the nursing staff to develop new ideas to keep the LGBTIQ program going.

For more information about this study, please contact Daenis Camire dccamire [at] lakeheadu [dot] ca.

Author: Kim Karioja