The City of Toronto has announced the cancellation of all planned summer camps as well as revocation of municipal permits for all major events and festivals until the end of August amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Mayor John Tory made the announcement on Friday, saying “nothing is more important” than the health of children and families.
“In our current environment where it hasn’t yet been safe to have the schools open, we can hardly be going full steam ahead with summer camps,” he said in a statement while also stressing the importance of preventing large gatherings.
“It is with deep regret that we are forced to extend the cancellation of large festivals to continue to stop the spread of COVID-19 and save lives. Special events and festivals are critical to the livability, vitality and economic success of Toronto.”
Scheduled City of Toronto summer camps scrapped, CampTO alternative being planned
There were 197 planned summer camps that were set to accommodate approximately 68,000 children. In terms of staff, approximately 1,500 part-time workers will be impacted by the announcement.
For those who paid enrolment fees, refunds are set to be issued over the course of four weeks.
City officials said planning is underway to create an alternative summer camp program called CampTO. They said going ahead with the program is contingent on the Ontario government lifting provincial orders and a sign-off by Toronto Public Health. Registration details will be unveiled at a later time if the conditions are met.
“CampTO would provide children with a high-quality camp experience, inclusive of traditional camp activities, that incorporate public health measures designed to reduce the risk of virus spread, including physical distancing, smaller group sizes, daily health assessments and more extensive cleaning and hygiene measures,” according to a City of Toronto statement.
“If permitted to operate, CampTO will provide 5,300 camp spaces per week for children aged six to 12 representing approximately 50 per cent of the typical City of Toronto camp capacity.”
Staff said it’s estimated the City of Toronto could lose up to $7 million if all camps are cancelled.
Charlotte Dobo said her children attend camp each summer and said the City of Toronto camps help with logistical issues.
The mother of four said she understands why camps have been cancelled, but noted it will be difficult for her family and particularly hard for one of her sons, Isiah, who has an intellectual disability.
“It’s kind of the thing that broke me. … As a parent, as a working professional, I understand the necessity of it. It just doesn’t make the blow any less to our home,” she said, adding the summer camps provide Isiah with structure.
“It’s something that he needs and it’s something I can’t give him and the idea of being completely powerless to give them something that will actually help them thrive.
“The feeling of insecurity of being able to care for my child is very real right now.”
Major festivals and events cancelled, recovery program launched
Officials also cancelled permits for major City-led and City-permitted events and festivals being held on municipally governed properties on Friday.
For events with an anticipated attendance of more than 250 people, all permits will be cancelled until July 31. For events with an anticipated attendance of 25,000 and more, all permits will be cancelled until August 31.
Professional sporting events aren’t covered under the announcement.
Among the major Toronto events cancelled include Salsa on St. Clair, the Toronto Outdoor Art Fair, Honda Indy, Beaches International Jazz Festival, Taste of the Danforth, Jerkfest, Taste of Manila and the Toronto Chinatown Festival.
Organizers of other signature events, such as the Toronto Caribbean Carnival and Pride Toronto, previously announced COVID-19-related cancellations.
Tory said grant funding previously approved by city council as well as in-kind support will be funneled into a new initiative, the cultural festivals recovery program, and it will support events impacted due to COVID-19.
The program will help mitigate financial losses from cancelled events, help with payments to suppliers and contractors, assist with maintaining critical operations needed for survival and future event preparation, and help with future event planning, marketing, insurance and training.
— With files from Erica Vella