The Extinction of Summer Camps In Ontario
More than ever, youth need camp. “As a seasonal industry hit hard by COVID-19, more than 1,000 camps (in Canada) are at risk of permanently closing their doors,” says the Canadian Camp Association. Camp provides youth the ability to learn new skills, make lifelong friends, gain newfound confidence, and most of all, the freedom to be their true, authentic self. Camp is a 2 billion dollar industry, providing more than 70,000 jobs across the country, positively impacting the economy. One camper even told us that they are scared for the future of Ontario camps, as their parents invest their lives into directing summer camp. Without camp this summer, this family will have no source of income.
With the cancellation of Ontario overnight summer camps in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Ontario Camps Association (OCA) is still hesitant about this upcoming camp season. Camps around Ontario are counting down the days, weeks, or even months that it is deemed safe to open up camps. There is still hope for camp, but with the pandemic being much longer and significant than anyone anticipated, there is still hesitance among campers, parents, staff, and government officials. Camp will definitely look different in 2021, with whole camp activities most likely not being possible. If overnight camps are approved by the ministry of health, countless safety measures will be inplace, with the OCA already adhering to over 600 health and safety standards before the pandemic. Safety measures will include daily health screenings, COVID-19 tests, and advanced cleaning and disinfecting.
Camp is not just a resort for kids whose parents want the summer alone, it’s a community of like-minded people, learning new skills and making memories to last a lifetime. Mia, a camper at Centauri Summer Arts Camp, tells the Royal Register that one of her favourite parts of camp is seeing the final performance pieces at the end of the session. Centauri, like many other camps, is a specialized camp, with campers training in different arts programs such as acting, film production and performance, fine art, dance, and stage combat, while still enjoying a traditional summer camp experience. Campers explain that they will be “sad, devastated, and disappointed” if Ontario overnight summer camps are cancelled once again. For Sarah, a camper of 6 years, “the hardest part is not being able to come full circle on the growth I have had at camp since I was 10 and the friendships I have made.” A number of campers agree that it worries them that others won’t get the same experience they did; “I truly think it (camp) saved a part of me.”
What is next? How can I ensure youth across Ontario get the summer they deserve? In the time being, it is essential to stop the spread; wash your hands often, social distance, stay at home in your bubble, wear your mask covering your mouth and nose, and stay home if you feel unwell. It is essential to take the COVID-19 vaccine when it is available to you, write your member of parliament a personal letter to support the needs of the camp industry, and use the hashtag #ThanksToCamp on social media feeds, giving camp a voice. Thanks to camp, the youth of Ontario are stronger for the future.