Eight summer camps in the Outaouais are asking the provincial government to fund 75 per cent of their fixed costs during the 2020 season. This follows a tough summer season for camps, which have not been fully operational since March of this year. “The biggest challenge for us has been the almost complete drop in revenue for the summer and spring seasons,” said Caroline Calvé, coordinator for Camp Air Eau Bois, located near Denholm, Quebec.
Calvé says summer camps are important educational institutions and Camp Air Eau Bois offers several nature programs for children in the region. However, because of COVID-19, the camp could only offer a fraction of its programs to visiting families during the spring and summer seasons. The Association des Camps du Québec (ACQ) has expressed the need for government funds, or many camps may be at risk of closure. Calvé says the fixed costs for Camp Air Eau Bois amount to $400,000, while more conservative estimates for camps around the province stand at $300,000 each.
The office of Minister for Education Isabelle Charest says it is aware of the financial difficulties summer camps are facing and knows they were unable to fully open this past summer. On October 15, the provincial government announced $2.5 million in aid to the camps under its $70 million aid plan, according to Alice Bergeron, press secretary for Minister Charest. Bergeron also says summer camps are eligible for funds under the programme Aide d’urgence aux petites et moyennes entreprises and the Programme d'action communautaire sur le terrain de l'éducation.
Despite these programs, the $2.5 million will not stop many camps in the province from closing, according to Mélanie Bourcier, coordinator at Tact Conseil, who is working in partnership with ACQ to bring attention to this issue. Bourcier says camps are simply asking for the same coverage the bar and restaurant industry has received from the government, with funds to cover the majority of fixed costs. Calvé says she believes that summer camps have been forgotten, despite their importance to a lot of families in Quebec. She says if they do not receive the funds now, it would send the camp into a precarious position in the coming years, because they would have to seek financial help through loans and other means.
Camp Air Eau Bois offers free programs to 60 underprivileged children every summer. The camp also offers programs for children with specific needs, such as young people with Tourette syndrome and children in remission from cancer.
[Local Journalism Initiative]