What will summer camps look like this year? It depends on the province

With just weeks to go until the traditional start of summer camp season, operators in some parts of Canada still aren't certain if they'll be given the go-ahead to run camps this year – or what guidelines they'll have to follow if they do.

Several provinces have given camps the green light to operate this summer. In these provinces, camps are generally subjected to either the same public health restrictions as other activities, or with special measures tailored to camp settings.

Quebec, Saskatchewan and Alberta are three of the provinces that have OK'd both day camps and overnight camps for this year.

Most camps in Atlantic Canada are expected to operate under relatively normal conditions. The exception to this comes from Nova Scotia, where day camps will be permitted only once the province enters the second phase of its reopening, and overnight camps only after the third phase begins. The province entered its first reopening phase on Wednesday, and expects subsequent phases to begin at intervals of two to four weeks.

In three of Canada's five most populous provinces, though, it is not yet fully clear to what extent camps will be able to welcome children this summer.

Manitoba ordered day camps to close in early May as part of a severe tightening of restrictions, and officials there have yet to issue guidance on how – or if – they will be able to reopen. Authorities in British Columbia have said that guidance on overnight camps could be released as soon as this weeks.

That leaves Ontario, which has a reopening framework that includes day camps in its first step – tentatively scheduled for June 14 – and pegs the opening overnight camps as part of its second step, likely four weeks later if health indicators continue to trend donward. Premier Doug Ford has said that camps will reopen, and the camp industry has said that they are working "full steam ahead" in planning a full summer schedule.

Stéphane Richard, president of the Canadian Camps Association (CCA), told CTV's Your Morning on Wednesday that he is taking recent announcements on camp openings from various provincial governments as "cautiously good news."

Although some camps have decided not to run programs this summer no matter what, he said, those that are opening up are doing their best to ensure a safe experience for everyone involved.

"There's a lot of measures, a lot of things happening right now, proactively, to make sure that … the camps that will operate can offer a very safe environment for kids," he said from Saint-Antoine, N.B.

Many camps will require everyone in attendance to be tested for COVID-19 before they arrive and again while they are on-site, Richard said. Many will also operate with similar protocols as schools and daycares, requiring campers to keep their distance, or wear masks when they cannot.

Bubbles or pods will also be utilized at some camps, provincial health regulations permitting, with staffers, volunteers and campers being kept to small groups in which they are not required to distance but cannot interact with anyone outside their group.

In Nova Scotia, for example, camps that open will have to ensure everyone present is divided into pods of up to 15 people who do not come into close contact with anybody outside their pod until the province is much further along in its reopening.

These measures will require some camps to operate at limited capacity. Richard said that camps are also reworking their facilities to ensure adherence with all protocols in areas where people are normally packed together in close quarters, such as meal halls.

The CCA had previously estimated that 57 per cent of summer camps in Canada could go bankrupt if they were not allowed to open this summer. Richard said Wednesday that because of help the industry has received from governments, the number facing that sort of financial peril is now much lower.