'It's going to be hard': Quebec sleepaway camps still don't know if they can open, and they say time is running out

Sleepover camps still don't know whether Quebec's pandemic measures will allow them to open this summer, and coordinators say the longer they have to wait, the harder it will be to find staff willing to work.

“It's challenging to recruit staff anyway,” said Brian Wharry of the Quebec Lodge Outdoor Centre.

“At this late date, even if they make a decision now it's going to be hard to find staff. Most university students already have jobs.”

Parents are eagerly waiting for a word from the government too, especially those with children who can benefit from special programming.

For Shimon Becker, who’s son Mikey is on the autism spectrum, summer camp is an invaluable resource.

“He tends to be better at socializing at camp than during the school year, and meeting friends,” said Becker, echoing calls from a group of pediatricians who wrote an open letter to the province calling for the reopening of camps.

Dr Earl Rubin, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist at the Montreal Children’s Hospital, says the benefits for children’s mental health offered by summer camps are irreplaceable elsewhere.

“Camp provides an environment that is really unmatched in any other venue really,” he said. “It's a microcosm of what life is like, what the world is like.”

Some overnight camps have already announced they won’t reopen, including YMCA’s Camp Kanawana, which will close in favour of offering day camps.

Rubin stressed that overnight camps can be operated safely, if they’re allowed to reopen.

“I think that really with adherence to a strict protocol, we can open camps very safely and allow them to run safely.”

The province says it's still in talks with public health and the Association des Camps du Québec, and that a decision is coming soon.

For now, Shimon Becker says he’s enrolled his child into a city-run day camp.

“How inclusive and accepting those camps are going to be, I'm not so sure.” 

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