No more camps and sleepovers for Girl Guides and Scouts Canada due to COVID-19

Camping trips are cancelled and sleepovers are no longer allowed as Girl Guides of Canada and Scouts Canada get ready to launch their programs this fall with new restrictions in place to deal with COVID-19.

Girl Guides of Canada said Manitoba’s latest pandemic restrictions of smaller gatherings will mean activities will likely be adjusted and group sizes reduced, to follow provincial health regulations.

“There is always the option to do virtual meetings such as Zoom or Skype. Another option is to only meet in person in groups with less than 10, which clearly impacts the number of girls who can be at the meeting at once,” said Winnipeg Girl Guide unit guider Juliana Barclay.

Barclay, who has been a Girl Guide for 18 years, said she personally enjoys the camping trips and different outdoor experiences the program offers, but said this year there won’t be camping trips or sleepovers planned.

Door-to-door cookie sales still allowed

Barclay said door-to-door sales of cookies are still allowed as long as kids follow provincial health rules, but some Girl Guide units in Winnipeg are planning to sell cookies on-line this year.

Barclay said discussions are now ongoing as to whether in-person meetings can continue. Regardless of how the restrictions change how they meet, she said Girl Guides will still be available, in some capacity, even if they have to meet online.

“Girl Guides will continue to offer engaging, innovative and new opportunities for girls to grow and learn through Guiding this fall,” Barclay said. 

“I think interacting with others especially for children and youth is very important and very critical at their age.”

That sentiment is shared by Kerry Spears, who is a Girl Guide leader in Winnipeg and a parent. Her 15-year-old daughter Raquel has registered for the program again this fall.

Kerry Spears, right, is a Girl Guide leader in Winnipeg. She and her 15-year-old daughter Raquel Gonzalez, left, are seen here at a winter camp in Pine Falls Manitoba organized by Girl Guides of Canada in February 2019. (Kerry Spears)

“I do feel frustrated with the pandemic, which I’m sure a lot of people are,” Spears said. “But I’m not worried to have my daughter participate in Girl Guides because while there may be risks, it’s good just to keep her in contact with other people so she’s interacting and in a good state of mind.”

Spears said it was especially hard for her daughter over the summer with the lack of contact with her friends.

She said she hopes outdoor activities can go on. 

“All our meetings have to take place outside,” she said. “I think there’s going to be a combination of outdoor [activities] and virtual depending on the unit.”

Spears said lately meetings have been held in backyards, and all the Guide leaders are wearing masks. She said some of the girls are wearing masks too but expects all of them will have to wear them with Manitoba’s new pandemic rules in place.

Scouts Canada axes overnight camping trips

Scouts Canada said programming will continue with physical distancing and extra safety measures in accordance with the federal, provincial and local governments.

“Safety for everyone is our top priority,” said Scouts Canada executive commissioner and CEO Andrew Price.

“We’ve spent the last number of months talking with parents, with members as well as taking the lead from federal and provincial  bodies and health authorities as we develop a step by step approach as to how we’re going to return to scouts in a safe manner.”

Scouts Canada says overnight camping trips will not go ahead this fall. (Eric Foss/CBC)

Price said the focus this year will be more outdoor activities for kids in small cohorts.

“In the near term we are not doing any camping so we’re not doing overnight activities,” Price said.

Scouts Canada said all memberships are being offered for free this fall.

“These are challenging times for parents in our communities both financially and otherwise, so we’ve extended memberships for existing members through to the end of 2020 at no cost. We are also offering a free trial for youth who want to try Scouting, ” Price said.  

‘Kids need Scouts more than ever’

Scouts Canada says registration for January 2021 opens on Oct. 1 for current members, with registration for new members on Oct. 15. Annual memberships cost $230. The fee only applies to 2021. 

“Kids need Scouts and programs like this more than ever,” Price said.

Scouts Canada said Friday it has a step-by-step plan, where activities can be scaled up or down based on the state of the pandemic and government direction.

Price said given the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, he believes these kind of programs can still offer kids emotional support.

“Kids have been kept indoors in front of the screen, they’ve been given limited opportunities to engage with other people to explore, to be creative, and our programs offer that,” he said.

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