Director’s Update – March 2021

Dear Wabun Family,

March is upon us! First off my apologies for missing our February update; the month was a full-court press of appeals to various governing bodies as I will describe below. Wabun’s leadership team continues to prepare for our 2021 season, moving ahead a week at a time, acquiring information, adapting our procedures, and recognizing how unsettling this uncertainty is for families as we advance toward summer. What motivates us and keeps our paddle in the water is knowing, as you do, that now more than ever kids will benefit from connection and cohesion they find out on trip. The Wabun leadership team, fueled by our love for and commitment to you, our campers and families, continues do everything in our power to prepare for a successful 2021 season, uphold our central commitment to safeguard the well-being of our campers and community, and move forward with the knowledge that our operation is contingent upon some factors within, but also beyond our control.

Given the reality and rapidity of changes associated with COVID and corresponding government guidelines, we continue to do our best to be transparent with you. In this update we seek to share new developments, progress we have made in our preparations, and also the significant windfalls that lie ahead as we endeavor to clear a trail toward summer- we will be forthright with you in what we face. 

Ontario Camps Reopening: On February 10th it was announced that the Ontario Government will begin to focus on the reopening of summer camps and other seasonal businesses. As of March 1st there has been no further information/timeline regarding reopening – the Ontario Camps Association (OCA) is working with the Ontario Health Unit to gain clarity around a timeline. The OCA released their field guide for residential camp operation on Monday. 

Canadian Border: At this point the US/Canada remains closed to US tourists. Yesterday, Wabun leadership collaborated with the Canadian Camping Association (CCA) leadership in authoring and an appeal to the Ministry of Immigration requesting an exemption/alternative entry options for our US campers. There is precedent for this in the exemption made for international students enrolled in Canadian schools. 

Quarantine/Isolation/Testing: We can expect that future travel across the border will require a molecular test 72 hours in advance of crossing, again at the border, and again 72 hours after entering Canada. There is at current, and we expect going forward, a period of quarantine required for individuals entering Canada. Part of the CCA exemption appeal is a request that camps who have been given approval by their local health unit are allowed to isolate campers on site. We have a wonderfully collaborative relationship with our health unit and they have agreed to review and revise our quarantine/isolation plans going forward as governmental regulations change in response to the threat level the virus presents locally. We are working with a senior member of the OCA’s COVID task-force and a number of local camps to fine-tune the testing method and schedule to be used at Wabun along with isolation/quarantine procedures should we be authorized to quarantine on-site. In effect at the moment is a 3-day government-mandated quarantine at an approved hotel near the border for anyone entering Canada from the US. Our immigration consultant assures us this regulation was intended to discourage spring break travel and will be phased out come June so long as cases continue to trend downwards in Ontario.

Wabun’s Decision Timeline: We recognize that it is untenable for families and for the camp to dwell in this uncertainty indefinitely. The Wabun leadership has decided that our date of decision will be March 31st. We chose this date for three main reasons. 1) It gives time for the appeals we, the OCA and the CCA initiated in February and earlier this week to be processed and for the Ministry of Health and MInistry of Immigration to address the issues of reopening seasonal businesses and issue surrounding guidelines. 2) If it becomes clear we are able to run it provides Wabun leadership adequate time to align the staff and prepare the program/facilities for the extraordinary summer ahead, and 3) if it becomes clear we are not we are able to run it respects the needs of Wabun staff, campers, and families to have adequate time this spring to pursue alternate arrangements for the summer. Again, please know the Wabun leadership wants nothing more than to run a safe and successful 2021 summer and we continue to prepare for the season and advocate for our campers and families.

Travel: At this point we recommend waiting to arrange travel by car or book flights to/from Toronto Pearson International Airport until we reach out with an update at the end of the month.

Tuition Statements/Dates: In my last update I suggested tuition statements would be headed your way shortly. You might have noticed they have not yet been delivered. The Wabun leadership has decided we will not be requesting payment until there is clarity on whether or not we will be able to run our 2021 season. If it becomes clear we are able to run Marg will provide you with your statement in April. If we are unable to operate our season we will refund any payments made for both the 2020/2021 season. 

I cannot tell you how heartening it has been to hear from the many of you who have reached out, to have seen your faces on Zoom reunions and at Open Houses. When so much is beyond our control, the reliability of the Wabun family to offer a kind word, a hand up this  steep bit of the trail, a laugh and (virtual) hug in the face of challenge continues to remind me that though the hurdles are very real, the hope of welcoming another generation of young people into the arms of the wilderness, into deep and meaningful connection with one another, into authorship of their own experience, that hope is worth holding onto, worth working for, and worth the wait. 



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