Montreal Gazette

Autistic boy in

Vaudreuil-Dorion denied a summer-camp shadow.

- JASON MAGDER jmagder@ montrealga­ Twitter: @OffIslandN­ews

Last year, Ovidiu Burlec’s two sons attended Vaudreuil-Dorion’s Animation Jeunesse camp, and the city paid for them each to have a shadow.

This year, however, only one can attend the city-funded camp, and Burlec is scrambling to find a place for the other.

Burlec’s sons, Robert, 6, and Alex, 8, both have autism. However, Alex is much higher functionin­g, Burlec said. Robert needs greater care and supervisio­n when attending camp activities. “Robert is a bit lazy,” he said. “He’ll do the activities, but you have to encourage him. But he can do all the activ- ities, no problem.”

The camp disagreed. At the end of last summer, it evaluated Robert’s case and decided he needed too much attention, and would be better off in a camp that can cater to his special needs.

Burlec wrote to the city council to ask that they reverse the camp’s decision, but at Monday night’s council meeting, council told him it will stand by the decision taken by the camp. The city is responsibl­e to pay for shadows in day camps, but Mayor Guy Pilon said there is a limit to what the city can do.

“It’s a bit of a safety issue,” Pilon said. “If he acts up, the shadow can’t cope, and has to call some of the counsellor­s for help, so they can no longer look after their (campers).”

The city has offered to place Robert in a day camp for special needs and handicappe­d children.

However, Burlec said that’s not an attractive offer, because he wants his son to stay active during the day. The other option is to place Robert at the Notre Dame de Fatima day camp in nearby Notre-Dame-de-l’ÎlePerrot. The city will subsidize its residents attending that camp, but Burlec said that would cost him $1,000 more over the summer.

“That would put us in a huge load of debt,” Burlec said.

Pilon said the city will consider if it can provide further assistance.

“We’ll see how we can help,” Pilon said. “We have rules, and we’ll go as far as we can to help him, but we don’t want it to create a precedent that becomes an acquired right.”

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