Spirit of 1930s Camp Woodsworth revived

Scott Colbourne

Submitted Article

Tuesday, September 6 2016

More than two dozen nationally and internationally recognized activists and policy makers gathered at the Surf Lodge from August 26 to 28 for the first Gabriola Summer Camp for Progressive Dialogue.

The gathering was inspired by the 1930s Camp Woodsworth that featured notables such as  Tommy Douglas and Grace McInnis (the first BC woman elected to the House of Commons).

“At the original Camp Woodsworth, which was held where today’s Camp Miriam is located, they talked about publicly funded health care for all, unemployment insurance and justice for First Nations,” said John Capon, whose father helped found Camp Woodsworth in the early 1930s. 

“At that time camp life was basic; no electricity or running water, meals cooked over a beach fire and meetings held under the shade of a big maple tree. But life-long friendships were forged, younger activists were mentored, and policies were created.”

The 2016 renewal of Camp Gabriola tackled equally challenging issues, with Ottawa-based writer Heather Menzies’ presentation on reclaiming the commons, and VIU’s  Matt Bowes talking about place and national identity. 

Other sessions featured Royal Roads professor Phillip Vannini showing his acclaimed film Off the Grid, while communications strategist Peter ter Weeme talked about ethically responsible social change, and Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Sheila Malcolmson focussed on the challenges and issues facing Canada from an Ottawa perspective.  A highlight of the camp was a Sunday morning session led by Robert Coulter, executive director of the Nanaimo Citizen’s Advocacy Centre, on Indigenous People’s rights and reconciliation.

But it was not all work as camp goers spent the warm summer afternoons  hiking, kayaking or just relaxing on island beaches. In the evenings everyone got a taste of island culture with performances by singer songwriters Bob Bossin and Victor Anthony.

Camp Gabriola was organized  by the BC registered Camp Gabriola Society.