Map of Short Hills Provincial Park where a deer hunt is scheduled to take place.
Credits: Bob Tymczyszyn/St. Catharines Standard/QMI Agency
ST. CATHARINES, Ont. — While First Nations hunters track deer in a controversial hunt at Short Hills Provincial Park Saturday, a group of children will be camped out in the middle of the park.
Though the southern Ontario park will be closed to the public while more than a dozen First Nations hunters harvest deer, Camp Wetaskiwin, a Scouts Canada Camp located in the middle of the Short Hills land, will remain open.
A Scouts Canada official said a group of children will check into the camp Friday night for an overnight camp-out. The group will be at the camp throughout the day Saturday for more activities.
The reservation was confirmed on Scout Canada's camp booking website, which shows Camp Wetaskiwin is booked Friday and Saturday, and again next Saturday and Sunday during the second weekend of the aboriginal-only hunt, which has never been allowed before in Short Hills Provincial Park.
“Regardless, all precautions have been taken to ensure none of our youth are at risk, otherwise we would have closed down the camp immediately,” said John Petitti, the executive director of marketing for Scouts Canada.
He said the national organization has been working with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, which oversees Short Hills and is in charge of closing down the park for the next two weekends.
“(Campers) won't be allowed to leave camp property and the leaders have been well-trained to ensure they're able to keep youth within the safety area,” Petitti said. “We would have a significant problem on our hands in our camp environments if we had youths just wondering off. There's always significant volunteer leadership accompanying them wherever they go, regardless of what's happening on the perimeters.”
Ministry spokeswoman Jolanta Kowalski said they're aware the Scouts will be in Camp Wetaskiwin, but are confident there won't be any problems.
“Our parks folks have been in touch with every affected stakeholder including Scouts Canada,” she said. “We've told them this is an archery-only hunt and as long as everyone stays outside the boundaries of the park, they'll be safe.”
Protesters opposed to the hunt are also expected to show up Saturday morning.
Robin Zavitz's online petition has now received more than 1,000 signatures.
Niagara Action for Animals, which has come out against the hunt, is also planning to protest on the weekend.