MONTREAL -- Canoeing, kayaking, arts and crafts and other sleep-away camp activities should all be on the table this summer, according to a group of pediatricians and other experts who penned an open letter to the Quebec government.

Re-opening the camps, which were not permitted to operate last summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic, would be just what the doctors order, according to pediatric infectious disease expert Earl Rubin.

“They grow emotionally, they grow socially, they develop skills they don't have the opportunity to otherwise foster,” he said.

Rubin has developed health measures he believes will keep both campers and staff safe.

“We have the precedent of the camps in Maine that functioned very successfully with over 1,000 kids in four different camps. They had no issue at all by following similar guidelines that I have outlined,” he said.

Those guidelines include quarantining and testing for the virus before kids arrive at camp.

“They will function in bubbles or cohorts, based on age, and there is hope that if the virus gets into camp, they would only expose a limited number of kids, rather than threatening the summer for the rest of the camp as a whole.”

Implementing the plan would take time, so the group of pediatricians has asked the government to give the camps the green light to re-open. Camp owners said they would need to know by early in April if they are to be able to plan the summer.

“We can't not operate a program for two summers in a row, so we need to offer a different program. It's so important we get that answer, just acknowledging that we can have the go-ahead this summer,” said Shauna Joyce, director of Camp Amy Molson and vice-president of the Quebec Camp Association.

Joyce acknowledged the camp experience won't be the same as in previous years, but believes the experience would still provide a safe space for youth.

“Sure, it will be different, but I think we'll still be able to build meaningful connections with our kids and make the impact that we have had for so many years,” she said. “It will just be in a new COVID way, which we are prepared to do if we are allowed to operate.”