Camp Wanapitei’s response to COVID-19

June 17 2021

Our COVID-19 Family Handbook is here.

June 16 2021

Following up on our June 4th letter to you all, we are happy to announce that we are pushing forward with our plans to offer a summer Camp Wanapitei program. Specifically, this means running:

  1. Summer camp programs for our Junior, Temagami, 2-Week Coureur de Bois, 2-Week Pioneer, and Canot du Nord campers as of July 16. 
  2. Summer camp program for 4-week Coureur de Bois, 4-Week Pioneer and Voyageur I (VI) campers as of August 1.
  3. Bay Trips and WLIT programs as of early July (date to be confirmed asap), in addition to running 8-week Voyageur II (VII) trips across the Yukon and Northwest Territories. 

We remain cautiously optimistic that Ontario will enter Step Two of its Roadmap to Reopen plan in early July. This second step permits overnight camps like us to operate. Our cautious optimism is based on the Province entering Step One ahead of schedule, and key indicators such as COVID-19 rates going down and vaccination rates rising. That said, it is not a certainty.

The safety and health of our community is our number one priority. As we plan for this modified summer, we will continue to assess and monitor the COVID-19 situation. Our Camp Directors, along with our Medical and Safety Committee, have been working closely with the Ontario Camps Association and the Timiskaming Health Unit to create guidelines and protocols that adhere to the Ministry of Health standards.

Some things will look and feel different at camp this summer due to these COVID-19 modifications. We will need the support and cooperation of everyone in our community to comply with these guidelines. 

Rest assured that the most important things will remain. Your child can still expect to connect with friends, learn new skills and challenge themselves in fun and exciting ways while exploring beautiful natural places.

We are going home!

June 4 2021

We’re sharing with you today an update on our 2021 summer plans. There’s much positive news, but there’s also ongoing uncertainty. 

Like you, we want to get your kids outside and on the water, developing their independence and resilience, getting physical activity, and learning and growing from real-world teamwork. This has always been Wanapitei’s guiding “North Star” and we feel it has never been more important during these challenging times.

We entered the 2021 season with a modified camp program that would allow us to safely operate within Ontario’s guidelines and with the understanding that, should overnight camps not be permitted to open this summer, we would pursue custom, cohort-based canoe trips.

As you know, on May 20 Ontario introduced its three-step “Roadmap to Reopening” plan. Since then, we’ve been adapting our programs in response to this plan. Last week, for instance, we decided to shift the majority of our early July campers to later sessions. This decision allows some flexibility with the anticipated transition from Step 1 (set for June 14) to Step 2 (21 days after). Step 2 permits summer camps to open. 

If overnight summer camps are not able to open in early July, we are committed to offering canoe trips for our older groups, most of which traditionally trip out of province. We will do our best to offer trips for our younger campers as well, as described below:

Canoe Tripping Program

  1. Our elite Voyageur II (VII) trips in the far north are moving ahead. We’ve worked closely with tourism, health, and other officials in the Territories to ensure we are adhering to the proper protocols for expedition travel.
  2. Our Voyageur I, WLIT, Bay Trip, Pioneer and 4-Week Coureur de Bois programs will run this summer subject to any new barriers that COVID may present. These trips may see their routes adjusted as we look at the opportunity to spend more time paddling in Quebec this summer. From experience, we can do this flexibly and safely since these are routes we paddled frequently. We will, of course, keep you informed of any rerouting, should that be required.
  3. For our Junior, Temagami and 2-Week Coureur de Bois campers, our goal remains to have a camp program operating as of July 16. We’re working hard to get our plans for a modified version of these programs approved by provincial health officials. However, we need to be very clear that this decision hinges upon the Province entering Step 2 of its Reopening Plan. Our Board has agreed to make this decision by June 14, in line with the Province’s move to Step 1 of reopening, as well as progress against other indicators related to the Step 2 reopening.

Our health advisory board tells us that the period leading up to June 14th will be a turning point. On or perhaps before that date, Ontario will announce the Province’s progress towards the first of the 3 stages of reopening. If the Government does permit Step 1 reopening, experts anticipate a gradual reopening of summer camps and other outdoor activities.

We deeply appreciate your support and willingness to stay with us thus far in this journey. We also understand that this prolonged uncertainty may be too much for some of you and that you may need to make alternate choices for your summer plans.

Despite our ambitions for a best possible 2021 summer, there remain uncertainties, and we may yet have more difficult decisions ahead. We’d like you to stand by us, but offering false hope, when so many decisions are beyond our control, is not our goal. Many of you have reached out to say that you understand this complexity and are willing to stand by in the hopes that summer camps can run this summer and for that, we are deeply grateful.

Our promise to you is that we are doing everything in our power to make a 2021  tripping and camp program possible and that we will continue to apprise you of any updates of changes in this direction as things evolve. 

In the meantime, we still want to be prepared for our trips and camps. We will continue to communicate our usual “summer prep” emails as we wait, including an overview of our COVID Trip Protocols, packing lists, medical form reminders, etc. 

Camping, paddling, and being together in the outdoors matter deeply to the Wanapitei community. The trust from our community to deliver these experiences is something we take very seriously.

Thank you again for being part of Wanapitei. We can’t wait to be back at Sandy Inlet with you all someday, soon. 

May 2021 – Current Update as of May 4, 2021

We wanted to quickly touch base as we start into May. The status of overnight camps in Ontario remains uncertain as the province struggles with the third wave of COVID-19. Our hearts go out to all of you who have been and continue to be affected by this terrible virus. A special thanks goes out to those who have been working in essential positions throughout this year.

In our offices, we continue to plan for the summer. Our first choice is to operate our full season as scheduled with the additional precautions and modifications to keep our campers and staff as safe as we can. That being said, we are also conscious that this may not be a possibility if we do not receive the green light from the government soon or the situation in Ontario does not improve.

Our team is currently working on several alternative programming options for the summer if camps cannot open. These alternatives would modify our operations to fit within the existing Ontario framework. We are not able to share details yet, but will in the coming weeks if we still do not have approval for overnight camps.

We are aware that some camps have already made the difficult decision not to operate in 2021. We respect their decision as we recognize that every camp is different and needs to do what is best for their business and families. We have decided that, for now, what is best for Wanapitei is to wait it out a bit longer while also looking at different models for operating.

To say this has been a challenging year is an understatement, and this is certainly not where we expected to be when we started planning for 2021. We are so grateful to you all for your patience and support as we navigate this storm together.

We will do our best to answer any questions you may have. Unfortunately, sometimes the answer will be: we don’t know yet. We will continue to keep you updated with information as it comes.


We expect to be releasing a detailed outline in May of what summer at Wanapitei will look like in 2021. We are still waiting for final approval of the guidelines drafted by the OCA and SickKids so we cannot share the full picture yet, however, we CAN share some things to be planning for right now:

PLAN to have your camper tested for COVID before arrival. A negative test result within 3 to 5 days before their session will likely be required to come to camp. Health units are in support of this and we believe the costs will be covered by the government.

PLAN for a cohort focus. The trip group is at the core of the Wanapitei experience already but this will be more apparent in 2021. Members of a trip group will likely be able to live in relatively relaxed conditions when they are together, with additional restrictions in place in situations where they need to interact with others (ex. coming in and out of the dining hall). Your child’s leaders will also be part of the trip group cohort to ensure limited mixing.

PLAN to drive your child to camp this summer. Due to intake screening requirements and exposure risks of multiple cohorts mixing coming into camp, we feel the safest option is to not offer bussing to camp. We hope to offer bussing home when the risk is lower (campers having been in cohorts for multiple weeks with no symptoms). We will attempt to support those wishing to carpool with members of their child’s cohort as the summer gets closer.

PLAN to pack some masks. While we are being told that masking within a cohort will not always be necessary, masks will be required when entering and exiting the dining hall, interacting with siblings in other cohorts, transportation to/from trip, etc. We will let you know the recommended number of masks and type when we know more. We are planning to wash masks regularly.

PLAN for increased hygiene measures. We will be increasing our hygiene protocols in camp and on trip. Some changes being made: additional handwashing stations are being built on-site as well as sanitizer stations for every cabin. Personal sanitizer will be recommended for campers on trip and there will be more focus on soap and water handwashing at the campsite. Much more on this to come as guidelines are released!


February 2021 – Staying Positive

First things first: The Ontario Camps Association, with guidance from public health and the provincial government, is telling overnight camps to plan for opening for Summer 2021. The Hon. Lisa MacLeod, the Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture, announced last week she has been given a mandate by the Premier to work on a safe reopening of summer camps. While this is not a guarantee, it is certainly a reason to be hopeful.

We are planning! Our plans for 2021 have included the possibility of operating during a pandemic since the beginning. We are currently waiting for guidelines from the Ontario Camps Association to be published in the coming weeks. These guidelines for operating overnight camps during the pandemic were drafted by industry experts, in consultation with doctors at SickKids, and are being reviewed for approval by the Ministry of Health. These will include guidelines for canoe trips. Once these guidelines are released, we will be able to share a better idea of what the summer will look like. In the interim, we are focusing on what we know: programs based on trip group cohorting, physical distancing of groups on the site, increased hygiene protocols and reducing visitors to the site.

We will be releasing a Wanapitei COVID-19 Family Handbook this spring. This will include as much information as possible on preparing your child for the summer ahead. We anticipate this will be ready to share in May.

Travel. The federal government has restrictions in place for travellers coming from outside of Canada. Currently, non-essential travel to Canada, including to attend summer camps, is not permitted. These restrictions may change before the summer, but we do not know. We will be contacting all international and U.S. campers in April to make a decision to maintain their registration or cancel by April 15th. Cancellations made by this date will be without penalty for international and U.S. families. After this date, our standard cancellation will apply if the restrictions have not changed. Note: Wanapitei will NOT be able to accommodate campers who need to quarantine. All travel requirements into Canada (or Ontario if applicable by summer) will need to be met before starting camp.

We’re staying positive! If we’ve learned anything from this pandemic, is that things can change quickly. Canoe tripping has taught us to expect the unexpected, so we’re feeling ready to take on the challenges this year is throwing at us. We have an incredible staff team coming together for the summer and we are ALL ready to do what it takes to come together safely.

Finally: We are here for you. We don’t have all of the answers yet but PLEASE keep asking us questions. Your questions help us shape our communication to the whole community, so we love to hear what’s on your mind.

October 2, 2020 – Planning for 2021

Registration for our returning families is now open and we are very excited to be planning for next summer.  We are hoping for the best, but planning as if COVID-19 will be part of our lives for the foreseeable future. With that in mind, here are some considerations we have already put into place:

  • Group sizes from Coureur de Bois to Wilderness Leaders in Training and Voyageur I will be capped at a maximum of 10 campers.  Juniors will remain capped at 8 campers and Temagamis at 9 per group.
  • We have removed bussing as an option at registration.  While we are hoping we can offer transportation to and from camp, we have decided to delay registration for these options until closer to the summer.
  • We have increased our staffing budget to include additional positions that will be dedicated to sanitizing and cleaning
  • We are dedicating a specific budget line for COVID-19 expenses, including (but not limited to) – additional sanitizing stations around our site, increased sanitizing products for on trip, physical barriers for our kitchen and office areas, extra PPE supplies for our staff and health centre.

Planning for COVID-19 will be an ongoing process throughout the year.  We are working with advice the Ontario Camps Association, the local health unit and provincial and federal health experts.  We will continue to keep our community updated as policies are made.  We appreciate your patience.

August 31, 2020 – Moving Forward, Fundraising Initiative

With September upon us, Wanapitei is ready to turn the page and look forward to 2021.  Registration will be opening in the coming weeks, and with that we will be sharing some of the plans to ensure a safe and healthy summer season next year.

In the meantime, Wanapitei is seeking the support of our greater community to help move forward.  We have started a capital campaign to raise money for new canoes, trip gear and building initiatives that will allow our 2021 camper fees to help cover our operating losses from 2020.

Those who know Wanapitei know that our programs and experiences change lives.  Find out more about our campaign: Support Camp Wanapitei

May 19th, 2020 – Suspension of all programs

Today, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced that overnight summer camps will not be permitted to open in 2020.  While we are incredibly disappointed that we will not be able to gather this summer, we respect that this decision is in the best interest of our community.  Like many of you, we were hoping that our August programs would continue.  This was a difficult announcement to hear and we are grieving the loss of our Wanapitei summer right along with you.

Community remains the most important value of Wanapitei.  Even apart, we can support each other through this.  We will be inviting our campers, families, staff, and alumni to gather online within the next week to be together during this difficult time and say goodbye to the summer we had been hoping for.

We know you may be wondering what comes next.  We will be in touch in the coming days to explain the next steps for managing payments.

Please reach out to us with questions – we are here for you in whatever way we can be.

Sending love and support,

Gill and Erin

May 14th, 2020 – Cancellation of July Programs

It is with great sadness that we must inform you that on May 14th, Camp Wanapitei made the decision to cancel our July programs for 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

We are heartbroken to be sharing this news, but we know that this decision is best for the safety and health of our campers, staff, families and the communities we travel through.

The decision to close for July was made with the full support of our Board of Directors, after weeks of working together with information and guidance gathered from the Ontario Camps Association, health officials, provincial and federal guidelines.

You chose Wanapitei because you trust us with your children.  We have explored every option we could to allow for our programs to run on schedule, while asking ourselves: “Is there a way to do this while adhering to guidelines and, most importantly, keeping our campers, staff and the communities we travel through safe from COVID-19?” The answer, at least for now, is no.

Many of you may be wondering what this means for our August programs.  We have some hope for our August sessions, and will continue to monitor the situation the same way we did for July and make our decision in the coming weeks.

This is a huge loss for all of us.  We live for our summers and know our campers and families do too.  We are sending love and support to you in this difficult time.

We welcome any questions you may have as we navigate this unprecedented time.  We have also started an FAQ page that we will continue to update as needed.  As we are not able to work in our office, we ask that you email us and we can set up a phone call.

We will go home again.

Erin Sunstrum ([email protected]) and Gill Thompson ([email protected]), Directors