A Richmond Hill boy says he’s sad he can’t attend summer camp with his friends, simply because he’s not Jewish. But the camp is standing firm on its position, saying it’s not about discrimination, but more about a mandate that has existed for 50 years.

Tyler Weir, who grew up in a Jewish community and has made an abundance of Jewish friends, wants to go to Camp Solelim, a Jewish summer sleepover camp for teens located near Sudbury. However, the camp says their mandate is to provide an opportunity for Jewish children to have educational programs that ultimately encourage them to be Jewish leaders.

“The unique program that Camp Solelim has and the mandate of Camp Solelim is to create Jewish leaders and Jewish leadership,” Sindi Kachuck, the chair of Canadian Young Judaea, told CP24 Tuesday. “it is always wonderful to have people promote the Jewish cause that are not Jewish, but in this setting, we do feel that it is a unique Jewish experience and that is what our parents have entrusted in us with for 50 years.”

But Tyler and his dad say they are disappointed, particularly because last year, he was allowed to go to another Jewish camp, Camp Shalom, which is for preteens. Camp Shalom and Camp Solelim are both run by Canadian Young Judaea.

Most of his friends who went to Shalom are now going to Solelim and want him to attend as well, Tyler said.

“I had a blast, I really could not have had a better time,” he said about his time at Camp Shalom. “It’s really upsetting because they let me go to Shalom last year and making all these new friends and having a great time and now not letting me go to Solelim.”

Kachuck said Tyler was allowed to attend Shalom because of an “administrative oversight” and that in fact, officials didn’t know he wasn’t Jewish until after he was already at camp, something that Tyler’s dad Andrew Weir flatly denies.

Weir said he spoke to an official at Shalom about religion before filling out his son’s application and was told there wouldn’t be a problem.

“You should be able to go and learn about Jewish faith, it’s the same thing as a Jewish boy or girl,” Weir said.

Weir said although several camps have contacted him to bring his son to their programs, he was hoping that Camp Solelim would bend the rules for Tyler.

“This has gone pretty far. My goal was just, to be honest with you, to have them bend and say ‘You know what? Forget this, don’t do this, he can come to camp’,” Weir said. “We don’t understand why they can’t make an exception.”

Andrew Pinto, a lawyer who specializes in human rights cases, says that in this particular case, the law may side with the camp.

"There is a provision in the Ontario Human Rights Code which gives organizations that have a particular fraternal, religious or philanthropic or educational purpose the actual right to discriminate to maintain membership or restrict membership or participation to people who are similarly identified," he said. 

"The challenge with some of these cases however is whether in fact, the organization’s purpose fulfils that mandate." 

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