Calls for background checks at day camps after allegations of sexual misconduct
Published Thursday, July 11, 2019 4:25PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, July 11, 2019 7:49PM EDT
There are calls for background checks for day camp staff after a counsellor in NDG was fired following a complaint of sexual misconduct.
MacDonald Day Camp fired one of its counsellors after he allegedly made sexually inappropriate comments to an 11-year-old girl.
Montreal police are investigating the incident.
"To say that this happened in our backyard saddens us, but we're also relieved that it did happen while we were here because of the way we handled the situation," said camp director Jessica Rolli-Vaccaro. "We informed parents that same day. We informed our staff that same day and we've been told we followed everything correctly. We've done everything as we should."
Rolli-Vaccaro and her co-director Laura Bustamante said background checks for potential hires are not mandatory, but they would love to see that change.
"The problem with background checks is they often take quite a bit of time and it's a seven-week camp. A lot of the time, our hiring process occurs quite close to the start of the camp season," explained Rolli-Vaccaro.
The day camp isn't to blame for the incident, said former MacDonald Day Camp counsellor Avi Karp.
"The camp did everything they're supposed to do according to the city. That's where the problem is. This needs to be overhauled," said Karp.
The NDG-Cote-des-Neiges borough said it allocates funding and space for the day camp, but only provides suggestions of best practices. It won't comment on this incident.
The Quebec Association of Camps represents about 100 day camps province wide; MacDonald Day Camp is not one of them.
If a camp is underneath its umbrella, background checks are mandatory for adult staff, said Chloe Melancon, spokesperson for the association.
"Province wide there are regulations for taxis, there are regulations for restaurants, for example, but there none for the care of children during the summer season," she said.
Macdonald Day Camp said their budget is a big issue; with more money, it could hire more employees and have better surveillance of children.
"We are working with the means and resources that we have and the time we have. It is a very short, seasonal position and this is unfortunately what we have to work with at the moment," said Bustamante. "All the time we spend investing in training, investing in the hiring process and all of the development we do for the camp is done part-time and voluntary."