Montreal day camp counsellor fired for alleged sexual misconduct toward young girl
A Montreal day camp has fired one of its employees after he was accused of sexual misconduct.
An 11-year-old girl attending the camp at MacDonald Park in Cote des Neiges-Notre Dame de Grace accused the counsellor, a man in his twenties, of making sexually indecent suggestions.
The MacDonald Day Camp fired the employee on the weekend after learning of the allegations.
The day camp held a meeting Monday morning to notify staffers of the firing and informed parents later in the day.
Officials at the day camp refused an interview with CTV News, but said in a statement: "We have spoken to authorities and we will not be making any comments at this time. The situation is being dealt with internally."
In the letter addressed to parents, directors Jessica Rolli-Vaccaro and Laura Bustamante referred to the incident as "sexual misconduct" and said "this is a very serious matter and we want to make sure you have the most accurate information."
"The former counsellor is not permitted in the vicinity of the camp. If this person is seen on camp grounds, we will be contacting the police and they will be immediately removed. We will not tolerate any behaviours that compromise the safety or well-being of the campers," the letter reads.
It also said the campers are not aware of the details of the situation, and as such, some may be sad to see the counsellor go without warning.
"Evidently they are not safe in the care of this person. We, the directors, will be speaking to the campers that have been affected by this event to avoid any confusion or rumours. We realise this topic of conversation is very sensitive, which is why we will be using age appropriate language while being sensitive to the feelings and concerns of the campers," the letter reads.
Constable Raphael Bergeron said police are still investigating the accusations.
"There was no touching and no sexual activity of any kind," he said, pointing out the man is accused of making indecent suggestions and inappropriate comments, and that no charges have been laid yet.
Another counsellor at the MacDonald Day Camp said that she did not undergo a background check, and told CTV News she was not certain what checks the camp performed.
"I am glad they addressed this with the parents of the children attending this camp, although my main issue is the fact that they did not do background checks on any of us staff, nor did they ask for references," the counsellor, who asked to remain anonymous, said in an email. "If I was a parent of a child attending this camp, I would be upset that they did not properly vet the staff."
"It's a very unfortunate situation, but we have all these prevention [measures] in place to prevent sexual assaults and abuse. Other camps could put [measures] in place to prevent that as well," said Chloe Melancon, spokesperson for the organization.
Melancon said its 100 member camps province wide must have appropriate conduct and sexual abuse prevention policies in place, and run background checks on all adult staff.
"They also must provide staff with 50 hours of staff training, including training on the counsellor duties and role as well prevention of abuse," she said.
The camp is funded by the borough, but has its own set of rules.
"There aren't any province wide regulations for camps, so we have rules for our member camps but otherwise they have to comply to regular laws pertaining to businesses, so background checks are not mandatory across the province," said Melancon.
The MacDonald Day Camp's website states "all our counsellors are bilingual, mature, responsible, have experience working with children and are hand-picked to ensure the well-being and safety of all our campers."
The letter from MacDonald Day Camp to parents in full:
Good evening MacDonald Day Camp Family,
We would like to inform you of an issue that came to light today with one of our staff members that resulted in termination of employment. This is a very serious matter and we want to make sure you have the most accurate information.
This person, counsellor of the eleven and twelve year old group, has been removed from camp for sexual misconduct. All relevant information has been turned over to law enforcement, the City of Montreal, as well as our Board. The former counsellor is not permitted in the vicinity of the camp. If this person is seen on camp grounds, we will be contacting the police and they will be immediately removed. We will not tolerate any behaviours that compromise the safety or well-being of the campers. As such, we are taking this situation very seriously.
As you can imagine, the campers are not aware of details or the severity of the situation. Due to the fact that not all campers were affected by this, many of them are upset to see their counsellor go and are wondering how they can get this individual to return to camp. However, we must remember that the safety of the children is our number one priority. Evidently they are not safe in the care of this person. We, the directors, will be speaking to the campers that have been affected by this event to avoid any confusion or rumours. We realise this topic of conversation is very sensitive, which is why we will be using age appropriate language while being sensitive to the feelings and concerns of the campers.
Of course, many of the campers have access to social media where they have the freedom to discuss this matter with their friends. We ask that parents be vigilant and come forward with any information they believe would be helpful to us. Please remind your children to speak to an adult if they experience or witness anything that makes them feel uncomfortable or unsafe.
We would also like to remind campers, parents, and staff members that we will not tolerate any kind of inappropriate behaviour or language. If campers, parents or staff members are unable to engage in appropriate behaviour they will be asked to leave immediately.
We apologize for any inconvenience, trauma or triggers this may have caused you and your family. Rest assured this situation is being handled extremely seriously and that your children’s well-being is our priority.
Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns.
Jessica Rolli-Vaccaro & Laura Bustamante
- With a report from CTV Montreal's Amanda Kline