Preventing sex abuse at summer camp
Ontario Camps Association develops policies to keep kids safe
Accredited summer camps in Ontario have policies to keep campers safe from sexual predators, according to the Ontario Camps Association.
The reassurances come as a Thunder Bay man, who once worked as a counsellor at a local bible camp, is facing sex-related charges.
"I think camps are the best risk managers in the world, if they belong to our association" said Heather Heagle executive director of the Ontario Camping Association.
"Our training ...we have lawyers, we have social workers and we have therapists to talk about all of these issues," she said referring to policies developed by the OCA to protect campers from sexual abuse.
For example, Heagle said, there are rules around how much help camp counsellors can give to small children when it comes to applying sunscreen or helping change out of wet bathing suits.
And counsellors are never allowed to be alone with a camper.
"If someone has forgotten something in a change room, two people go back," Heagle said. "If someone has forgotten a lunch pail at the end of the day and a counsellor says, 'I'll go back with Jenny and get it', we have two people go back and get it."
Heagle said the 400 camps accredited by the association are inspected regularly and also have strict hiring guidelines that go beyond criminal records checks.
"We really scrutinize them."
Heagle said these kinds of policies have changed significantly with the growing awareness of sexual abuse in the past 20 years.
The charges against the former Thunder Bay camp counsellor date back as far as 1983 and span a period of about two decades.
Jeff Paxton is charged with gross indecency, sexual assault, sexual interference and invitation to sexual touching.
The alleged victims were boys, who were between 7 and 14 years old at the time.
Police report one of Paxton's jobs was serving as a counsellor at Round Lake Bible Camp.
He no longer works there and the camp is under new management since the time when he was employed there.
The camp is not a member of the Ontario Camps Association, but its web site says its counsellors are screened and follow the camp's own child protection policy.
Paxton was scheduled for a bail hearing on Thursday.