Soaring insurance putting crunch on district Bible camps

While auto and home owners have been grimacing in the face of steadily rising insurance rates lately, one group that few thought would be affected has witnessed a dramatic increase they never saw coming.
Mark Mast, a missionary in Rainy River for the Canadian Sunday School Mission, has been active in organizing summer Bible camps for area kids for many years now.
Before him, they date back to the early 1940s in this area—when it cost 50 cents to go to camp.
However, about four years ago, a directive from the CSSM saw a slight change in the way things were going to be done. Camp organizers were directed to carry insurance for not only physical/disability but also for protection against physical and sexual abuse liabilities.
This stemmed from the tide of lawsuits against several churches across Canada for physical and sexual abuse.
Mast said most people believed they already were covered by either personal or homeowner’s insurance policies. But that was not the case, so they purchased a policy for $400.
That was manageable, but that was then.
The very next year, the premium more than doubled to $1,000. Then two years ago, it doubled again to $2,000.
Feeling it could not go any higher than that, camp organizers set their camp rates to cover those costs. That was before they received the bill for this year’s insurance, which came in at an astronomical $6,000.
“I was just floored,” said Mast.
Part of the problem is there are only three companies which carry this type of insurance in all of Canada—making shopping around practically impossible.
“Our CSSM director shopped around and this is the best rate we can get,” Mast said.
The CSSM has six summer camps running in Ontario and the $6,000 is just the Rainy River District camp’s share. The total bill for Ontario is $70,000.
For all of CSSM’s camps in Canada, it is about $500,000.
To make up some of the difference on the skyrocketing cost of insurance, camp will cost quite a bit more this year. Junior and teen camp will go from $100 last year to $150 this year.
The canoe trip was $135. Now it will be $200.
However, Mast is urging people who might not feel they can afford the increase in cost not to walk away from the camp for financial reasons. “We will find a way to get the kids into camp,” he pledged.
Mast’s group currently hosts about 90 kids at junior camp, 70 at teen camp, and about 35 on the canoe trip annually. Each of the camps are about a week long and are held at Sunny Cove Camp, just east of Fort Frances.
Mast said the $6,000 covers them for an entire year and that if they had more camps, they could spread the cost recovery out over more people. “But we are a small camp,” he noted.
In addition to the high insurance, camp organizers have to screen their counsellors—getting police checks done on a regular basis to protect the kids from possible harm.
The same is true for Sunday School at church. Mast, who co-ministers at the Evangelical Covenant Church in Rainy River, said liability insurance is nullified until thorough guidelines are met.
Sunday School classrooms have to have see-through doors, police checks of teachers have to be done, and there has to be two teachers in the classroom at all times.
While he finds it a frustrating situation, Mast said, “We are getting what we asked for as a society and until society wakes up, it is likely only going to get worse.”
The local Bible camp is not actively seeking donations to help with its huge insurance bill but Mast said if people do want to help, they can donate to the CSSM—earmarking the money for the Rainy River District.
They will receive a tax receipt.
There was no word as of Monday if the summer camp run by the United churches in Rainy River, Stratton, and Emo will be affected. They have a board meeting this weekend and it is expected the topic will be high on the agenda.
(Fort Frances Times)