British Columbia

B.C. mother calls for summer camp regulation after incidents at North Shore camp

Tiffany Neufeld was picking up her son and a friend's, both six, from Escape Adventures when a woman she didn't know tapped her on the shoulder.

Camp owner says company has safety protocols in place and would welcome more regulation

A mountain biker rolls down a rock obstacle in North Vancouver as part of an Escape Adventures day camp. (Tammy Stothers)

A mother is calling for provincial regulation of summer camps in B.C. after two incidents at a popular mountain biking camp on Metro Vancouver's North Shore. 

Tiffany Neufeld was picking up her son and a friend's, both six, from Escape Adventures, when a woman she didn't know tapped her on the shoulder.

The woman pointed to her friend's son, Eli, and told her she had given him a ride that day after he had tumbled from his bike a few blocks away from the Lynn Canyon Ecology Centre, where they were headed. 

"I was actually just in a state of shock when she had told me she had put my friend's son into her car," Neufeld said. 

A camp coach then told Neufeld her own son, Kasen, had been "misplaced" at the ecology centre. She says she later found out from the boys that he had actually been left alone for about 30 minutes. 

Neufeld contacted the camp director, Tammy Stothers, to clarify the incidents and the camp's safety policies.

"Her responses, none of them were adequate," Neufeld claimed. 

When Neufeld contacted various officials to see what recourse she had available, she was told summer camps of less than 13 weeks duration are not subject to provincial legislation.

"I would like to see that somebody pulling a business licence to operate with children should be required to have at minimum a criminal record check and basic first aid," Neufeld said.

"I think it's absolutely ridiculous you would work with other people's children without those two things in place."

Camp fires coaches

Stothers said she agrees with Neufeld that Kasen should never have been left alone; she says there had been a mix-up between the coaches, and they didn't notify her about the incident. 

"Escape Adventures has safety policies in place," she said. "They were not followed in this situation in respect to Kasen, and because of that it has cost two coaches their jobs."

As for putting Eli in the woman's car, Stothers admits she had approved the decision because the woman was the mother of one of the other children in the camp and happened to be nearby when Eli fell off his bike. 

"It was a mother who was doing a good deed because she saw a little child who was a little rattled," she said.

Stothers said she understands Neufeld's concern and has changed the camp's policies as a result. 

"I have learned that we will not be putting anybody's children in anybody's car," she said.

Stothers said she welcomes Neufeld's call for provincial regulation; she currently follows guidelines from the Professional Mountain Bike Instructors Association.

"Nobody would go into business for summer or anything dealing with children without having policies and procedures in place," Stothers said.

Her coaches all have first aid training, she said, and attend a six-hour training session at the beginning of the season. Her company also sends out ongoing training and company policy reminders throughout the summer.

Parents' responsibility, says Health Ministry

The B.C. Health Ministry confirmed that programs that offer recreation activities or tutoring don't require a licence under the province's Child Care Licensing Regulations.

"Parents are responsible for assessing and monitoring the quality of care provided in any unlicensed or exempted child care arrangements," the ministry said in a written statement. 

Health authorities are responsible for monitoring licensed childcare providers, the ministry said, but can investigate complaints about unlicensed ones as well.

A Vancouver Coastal Health spokesperson said it does inspect unlicensed childcare providers if a parent files a complaint, or if it hears of questionable practices through the media.