'Draconian' health officials shut down kids' summer camp
John Paul II Cultural Centre was shut down because it was misclassified under provincial law
A faith-based girls' camp in southwestern Ontario remains closed after campers were ordered home and the camp was shutdown Monday by health authorities in a dispute with camp administrators over its legal classification.
The sudden shutdown on Monday night by health authorities in Elgin County left dozens of families scrambling Tuesday to pick up their children from the Port Burwell, Ont. summer camp.
'Fix the paperwork. Don't take it out on the kids.' - John Zanin, parent
John Zanin, whose two daughters Kate and Anna had attended Anchor Camp at the John Paul II Cultural Centre in Port Burwell for the past few years, said he's "very disappointed" in public health officials for sending his kids home because the faith-based camp for girls had the wrong colour pool liner, and the camp itself was misclassified under provincial law.
"Fix the paperwork. Don't take it out on the kids," Zanin said. "As parents, that's one of the things we save our money for every summer, to send our daughters to that camp, and this year, 36 hours into it, it's done."
Anchor Camp costs up to $350 per camper. Roelands wouldn't say whether the full cost would be refunded to the families because of the shutdown.
Zanin said the camp nurse called him on Monday night to say the camp would be shut down by the Elgin St. Thomas Public Health Unit.
"We had to pick up our daughters by 10 a.m.," he said. "Fortunately no one was hurt, but then after that we got to wondering 'why would they close the camp down?'"
Zanin said he made a number of calls to the health unit about why the camp was ordered to close, but each was met with few details from public health officials.
'They wouldn't elaborate'
"They simply said they were closing it down for a safety violation and we had to go pick up our daughters, and that was that," he said.
On Tuesday, dozens of campers took shelter from the rain as they waited with their belongings for parents or relatives to come pick them up. Some had driven for hours from as far away as London, Toronto, Sarnia in Ontario, and Michigan in one case.
Wrong pool liner
"Those stories are very compelling, and I understand that it's very disturbing to have these things interrupted," Cathie Walker, director of health promotion for the Elgin St Thomas Public Health Unit, told CBC News on Tuesday. "This has caused a huge inconvenience for people and we regret that.
"The issue for us is we have a process for inspecting and different classifications for these kinds of premises," Walker said, noting the camp was shut down because it was classified under the wrong set of rules set out by provincial law.
Monday night's routine inspection also found the liner of the camp's pool was too dark, and officials ordered it drained and the liner replaced.
"Our key concern is that the people attending the camp are healthy and safe," she said. "We're prepared to work with whoever wants to work with us so people can resume their activities there."
"It's a dispute over the classification of the campground," said Martin Roelands, founder of the John Paul II Cultural Centre and the operator of the summer camp. "We're working with a couple of advisers and are still trying to work out all the issues.
"I want [families] to stay positive," he said. "It's unfortunate [public health officials] had to take the kids away from their summer camping experience, but hopefully they'll stay with us again next year."
Roelands noted that after he learned his camp had the wrong colour liner, he immediately starting looking into hiring a contractor to replace it.
"We're doing our best to comply with the regulations," he said.
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