Note: This is an updated version of the May 13 story in The Low Down's print edition.
By Stuart Benson
After much discussion and consideration on May 7, the Centre Wakefield La Peche board made the decision to cancel summer camps run out of the community centre this year.
“We determined that camps will be very challenging to implement due to maintaining social distancing, organizing activities with less contact and the increase and frequent hygiene process to ensure the safety of the children and the youth camp leaders,” Irene Richardson, CWLP board member, wrote in an email to The Low Down on May 8.
“We have been working closely with the municipality of La Pêche over the past few months regarding COVID-19 issues and they will be running summer camps based on the provincial health guidelines,” Richardson wrote. “We are planning on reopening the Centre in September, we know life will be different and we have a team in place working on a plan to offer safe and fun fall programs and events.”
While the Meredith Centre in Chelsea hasn’t made a final decision, Daniel Bérubé, the centre’s director-general, is optimistic that camps will still run.
“We're definitely planning to have camps starting in July, but right now we're really dependent on what the government says because the community centre is a city building,” explained Bérubé. “If they say we can, we will be running camps.”
Sarah Lariviere, owner of Camp Altitude in Gatineau, and Sylvie Gauthier, owner of Les Circofolies circus camp in Chelsea, are both in the same holding pattern as Bérubé.
“I want to [open], but I'm waiting for things to calm down,” said Gauthier. “We'll see how the return to school goes.”
Stella Pagani, owner of Vortex Art Studio in Wakefield, said prospects aren’t looking so good for the summer camp she has offered in the past. Pagani takes pride in offering a certain level of quality at her camps and fears the COVID-19 restrictions will drastically reduce her ability to meet those high standards.
“I'd have to start ordering my supplies and putting my staff together now if I wanted to run,” Pagani explained. “[But] all of the supply chains are closed and no parent is going to want their teenager or 20-year-old to work with [large groups of children].”
“I don't think I'll run it,” Pagani added.
Fortunately, during his regular daily news conference on May 21, Premier Francois Legault announced that summer day camps will be allowed to open on schedule, with more supervision and health measures in order to reduce the risk of infection from COVID-19.
Legault said the camps will have to create "bubbles" of campers, essentially small groups of children and counsellors, that will keep their distance from other groups. In order to meet the new ratio of campers to counsellors, about half as many children to counsellors as last year, camps will need to hire more people. Campers will not be required to wear masks, however.
Day camps will open on June 22. Sleepaway camps remain closed until the 2021 season.