Skip to main content
Complete Olympic Games coverage at your fingertips
Your inside track on the Olympic Games
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week for 24 weeks
Complete Olympic Games coverage at your fingertips
Your inside track onthe Olympics Games
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Karyn Gordon’s 13-year-old twin boys began going to Muskoka Woods, an overnight camp in Ontario, six years ago.

“It’s the highlight of their summer,” said Ms. Gordon, a parenting coach.

Camp has helped teach her kids resilience and independence, and it’s a place where they’ve been able to let loose and have fun – all things they could benefit from this summer considering the year we’ve had, Ms. Gordon said.

Story continues below advertisement

While kids may be eager to go, and parents eager to plan their summer, overnight camps across Canada still don’t know if they will be allowed to operate. That uncertainty poses staffing and other logistical challenges for camps. And if overnight camps cannot open this summer, just as they were not allowed to last year, with the exception of camps in New Brunswick, a majority of them may face bankruptcy by the end of the year, according to a survey conducted by the Canadian Camping Association.

“Right now we are dealing with a giant question mark,” said Lauren Marutt, program co-ordinator for the British Columbia Camps Association.

The association has developed a set of COVID-19 guidelines, which includes measures such as limiting the number of campers per cabin and, for camps that transport campers, reducing the number of kids on buses and ferries in order to maintain physical distancing, Ms. Marutt said.

If the province does not allow overnight camps to operate this summer, a majority do not expect to be able to survive: 68 per cent of the association’s camps say they will likely have to file for bankruptcy by the end of the year.

Nationally, the picture is just as bleak. Sixty per cent of camps surveyed by the Canadian Camping Association said they will go bankrupt if they cannot operate this summer.

“They’re in survival mode,” said Stéphane Richard, president of the Canadian Camping Association.

While camps wait on direction from provincial governments, the Canadian Camping Association is telling overnight camps to prepare now to operate, including hiring staff, since it may be too late by the time provincial governments provide clarity, Mr. Richard said.

Story continues below advertisement

“If we only get the decision May 31 or the first week of June, camps can’t pivot at that point,” he said.

The camping industry employs approximately 70,000 youth and young adults every summer, Mr. Richard said.

But hiring staff for this summer can be challenging.

Tim Good, executive director of Camp Kadesh, two hours north of Saskatoon, said the uncertain situation makes it difficult to hire staff this year.

“Last year, many of them held on for the job at camp and then didn’t have any job for the summer because camps were shut down,” he said.

This year, people seem much less willing to take that risk, Mr. Good said.

Story continues below advertisement

The camp has not begun taking bookings for the summer yet because, as Mr. Good said, ”We’re not going to open registration only to have to hand back money again this year.”

Curtis Anderson, a pastor in Saskatoon who worked at Camp Kadesh in his youth, sent his nine-year-old son to the camp two years ago. He hopes to send his son and seven-year-old daughter this year.

“We’re hoping they can come up with a plan where kids can go to camp and everybody can still feel safe at the same time,” he said. “So much of childhood stuff has been taken away.”

Camp will help provide kids with a “return to normal,” said Jack Goodman, owner of Camp New Moon in Baysville, Ont., and leader of the Ontario Camps Association COVID-19 task force, which has been working with government and public-health officials to create guidelines for both day and overnight camps in the province.

The association is confident that its standards for member camps will create “a very safe, responsible environment,” he said.

Those standards include screening campers using questionnaires and cohorting.

Story continues below advertisement

“That way in the rare likelihood someone is detected to have COVID we can trace where that occurs within a relatively small group,” Mr. Goodman said.

The association has also asked the government to help support a universal testing program to test all campers and staff three to five days before they arrive and then again several days after their arrival to ensure equity among camps, Mr. Goodman said.

Ontario’s Ministry of Health said in a statement that the government recognizes the importance of camps (day and overnight) “to the development, physical and mental well-being as well as long-term resiliency of Ontario’s children and youth.”

It added that the province is consulting with public-health experts and local medical officers of health to determine if and when changes to the existing measures can be recommended.

In other words, overnight camps will have to wait and see.

“We’re all sitting on the edge of our seat,” Mr. Goodman said.

Story continues below advertisement

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies