In the past few weeks, The Edge Skatepark, run by the non-denominational Christian organization Youth for Christ Winnipeg (YFC Winnipeg), has been the subject of a dialogue started by the 2SLGBTQIA+ skate community in Winnipeg, where a number of skaters expressed discomfort with the policies of YFC Winnipeg that govern the skatepark.
For those who wish to keep skateboarding into Winnipeg’s long, harsh winter months, indoor skateboarding is often the only option. However, Chrussy, an organizer with Queer Skate Winnipeg, says many 2SLGBTQIA+ skaters miss out on skating in the winter months because of The Edge’s ties to certain religious beliefs.
“The Edge is the only major indoor skatepark (in Winnipeg)”, Chrussy says. “It’s central, it’s a nice facility, but this church element has prevented so many people from showing up.”
Cliff Heide, the executive director of YFC Winnipeg, declined The Uniter’s request to be interviewed. However, Amber Anderson Skrabek, YFC Winnipeg’s senior director of community and partner relations, said this in an email statement:
“We all want all youth to feel loved and accepted in all our programs, and after the stress of this past year, it’s more important than ever that we find a way to work together to ensure a safe space for all youth to hang out and have fun. We’re hopeful this dialogue will help us do that better.”
Sophie Ashton is an organizer with The Other Skaters zine. She posted a list of calls to action to YFC Winnipeg and The Edge Skatepark on Instagram. She says they would like to see the removal of exclusionary language in a policy within YFC’s employment contract that Ashton says prevents openly 2SLGBTQIA+ skaters from holding leadership positions at The Edge.
“Not even just the policies, just the association of the church is enough to make people feel uncomfortable,” Ashton says. “It’s supposed to be a space of community recreation, but because it’s funded a lot by donors who are primarily religious donors, they (2SLGBTQIA+ people) can’t become leaders in leadership roles, and they can’t be staff.”
“We acknowledge the wording can appear exclusionary for those who do not share or fully understand our beliefs,” Anderson Skrabek said in an email statement. “Our beliefs are what enable us to raise the financial support needed to run these programs and enable our staff to raise their own financial support to work at YFC.”
Ultimately, both Ashton and Chrussy say they would like to see an alternative indoor skate space separate from religious affiliation implemented in the city.
“We could have one that has an indoor skatepark, but also harm-reduction supplies,” Chrussy says.
In the meantime, Ashton says The Other Skaters would like to see a public statement from YFC Winnipeg on the matter, as well as more training for staff on the barriers 2SLGBTQIA+ folks face.
“Primarily, we want people who work at The Edge to put that pressure on YFC and make sure that they know that this is not an issue that’s going to go away,” Ashton says.
Published in Volume 75, Number 15 of The Uniter (January 20, 2021)