Faith-based camps in Manitoba scramble to make up lost funding

Some Christian summer camps in Manitoba are scrambling to find new sources of funding after having their application for grant money rejected through the Canada Summer Jobs program.

Organizations applied for jobs money but refused to check off box they feel implies they support abortion

Calvary Temple Camp has had its application for Canada Summer Jobs grants refused. The camp on Red Rock Lake in Whiteshell Provincial Park is attended by 475 children each summer. (Rebecca Clarke/Calvary Temple Camp)

Some faith-based camps in Manitoba are scrambling to find other sources of funding after their applications for grant money through the Canada Summer Jobs program were deemed incomplete or rejected.

The camps are dealing with the fallout from a new part of the application that requires them to check a box to indicate the job and the organization's mandate respect individual human rights, including reproductive rights.

Manitoba Camping Association president Wayne Eisbrenner, who is also executive director of Camp Nutimik, said his camp planned to hire an assistant cook with the $10,000 in grant money from the program.

Nutimik's application to the Canada Summer Jobs program was deemed incomplete because he wouldn't check off the box due to the organization's opposition to abortion, Eisbrenner said. Nutimik is a Christian camp started by Manitoba Baptist churches in 1954.

"I think it's really sad," Eisbrenner said. "Here is a job we were creating to hire a young person to get some mentoring from our head cook, and we can't do anything about it."

The Manitoba Camping Association represents about 40 camps, and close to 30 have a faith component, Eisbrenner said. Some of them have applied for Summer Jobs Program funding without checking the box because, like Eisbrenner, they feel it implies they support abortion and that goes against their religion, which is also protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, he said.

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Eisbrenner responded to the information that his camp's application was incomplete by sending another application, accompanied by a letter explaining why he couldn't agree to put a check mark in the box.

"Of course we support human rights, but we can't support a decision that compels us to make a statement or adopt a belief that conflicts with our religious conscience," he said.

"We are requesting an accommodation of our charter rights to freedom of religion and freedom of conscience and freedom of belief, not to be discriminated against."

  • Click here to read Camp Nutimik's letters below. On mobile? Read the letters here and here.

He sought legal advice from the Canadian Council of Christian Charities, and he's advising other camps in Manitoba to do what he did.

Nutimik has found new funding, which is the new reality for those whose faith won't let them check off the attestation, Eisbrenner said.

The Catholic School of Evangelization in St. Malo, a residential camp attended by 250 kids every summer, called the community response "a really nice surprise."

"We are seeing a lot of different organizations stepping up," associate director Kevin Prada said. 

"The Knights of Columbus in different parishes are sending in donations, holding pancake breakfasts and even putting on a social in La Broquerie. They see how wrong this is, and they want to do something to support the camp, which is so important to them." 

Calvary Temple Camp's application for Canada Summer Jobs funding was rejected as incomplete after the director didn't check off a box some groups oppose on religious grounds. (Rebecca Clarke/Calvary Temple Camp)
Calvary Temple Camp director Jared Clarke said his application was also deemed incomplete for not checking off the box.

The Summer Jobs Program grants were wanted to fund an assistant to the director and a one-on-one worker for children with special needs at the camp for 475 children on Red Rock Lake in Whiteshell Provincial Park, where Calvary Temple, Union Gospel Mission and the Sunshine Fund combine to sponsor just under 200 kids. 

"I have to tell parents I don't know what funding I will have available. If we don't have support for a child with a disability, I am not going to have an unsafe situation," Clarke said.

Clarke has made a plea to the congregation at Calvary Temple to make up the shortfall, and they have responded, but Clarke wonders what that will mean for a camp fundraising banquet in a couple of weeks. 

"We normally raise money for camp sponsorship, staff and other capital projects, and now they've given already. So are they going to continue to give? Are they able to continue to give, because we have already asked for help with this staffing shortfall?"

Some faith-based camps in Manitoba, such as Camp Nutimik, are fundraising to make up for money denied through the Canada Summer Jobs program. (Wayne Eisbrenner)
One Hope Canada is the parent organization for five camps in Manitoba that aren't connected to a church. 

The camps in Dauphin, Gimli, Turtle Mountain, Valley View and Roseau all applied for Canada Summer Jobs grants, and all five were rejected, leaving them with a shortfall of about $6,000 to $8,000 each.

"Despite the loss of summer jobs funding, no programs will be cut or reduced and no fees will be increased. Each camp is reaching out to local donors and supporters in their community to make up what was lost," a spokesperson said in a written statement.

Even some Manitoba camps that are not faith based have not yet received any money through the Canada Summer Jobs program.

Caddy Lake camp director Amber Allen normally applies and gets $7,000 for one position.

This year, she thought because religious camps likely wouldn't qualify, more funding might be available, so she applied for two positions totalling $14,000. However, they have had no response to their application, she said.

Labour Minister Patty Hajdu's office has not yet responded to two messages from the CBC about the program.


Born and raised in Winnipeg, Marianne has always had a passion for seeking the truth. She began her career anchoring and reporting at CKX Brandon. From there she worked in both TV news and current affairs at CBC Saskatoon. For the past 25 years Marianne has worked in Winnipeg, both in radio and television. She was formerly a teacher in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.