2007 was Scouts Canada’s centennial year, and it was also the year I was a newly invested Cub in a Pack of 20 other youth in Toronto. Fast forward to the present and now I have a few roles associated with my name – Youth Commissioner, youth spokesperson, camp staff member – and it’s all been an amazing opportunity. This Scouting year is also the year of the Canadian Path’s official launch, which follows an approach that I have been grateful for since I was a child – even though I had not heard of the Canadian Path back then. My journey within Scouting has been relatively long (I mean, I’m only 18) so when people ask me how I got to where I am now I don’t know what to say, but I do know that the Canadian Path has been with me every step of the way.
I became more involved in Scouts Canada from my role as a youth participant when I learned that there were opportunities available for me to do more. Many people don’t realize that there is a huge team running Scouts Canada from behind the scenes. We often just see the youth participants – the Beavers with their hats, the Cubs running around the gym, the Scouts with all their badges and their adult Scouters. Behind all that are Group Committee meetings, Area teams conducting support visits, Councils and National working together to ensure the best for the organization.
There are several opportunities for youth to take on leadership roles within the organization. Cubs and Scouts can aid younger sections as Scouters, youth can become involved in their Area by becoming a member of their Area Youth Network, and Councils frequently look for youth to join their teams. To those who find working in the media more interesting, Scouts Canada recruits youth spokespeople to aid in social media campaigns, be interviewed by the media and write for them (oh hey!).
Of course, more doors tend to open the older you are. In 2016 the minimum age requirement to apply to be a youth spokesperson was 11 years old, and most Area, Council and National youth networks consists of older Scouts, Venturers and Rovers. It is remarkable that there is even an opportunity for youth involvement.
For myself, the more I got involved the more I wanted to do, and the more I grew. I went from Cub to Scout to Venturer to Scouter to working alongside the Area and the Council teams. I also became more confident in myself, more independent and responsible. Every step of the way I was encouraged and helped by both youth and adult members.
As time went on, I increasingly realised the importance of youth involvement in every level of this organization. After all, we pride ourselves in having quality program for youth, and who knows youth better than the youth themselves?
I increasingly realised the importance of youth involvement in every level of this organization.
In 2014 I had just become an Area Youth Commissioner and that also happened to be the year the Canadian Path started to roll out. The Canadian Path isn’t a whole new program but a revitalization of what the program was meant to be. Sure, the Canadian Path comes with a new set of badges, requirements and changes in structure but that ensures that the needs and wants of the youth are being met. Older Scouters talk about a time when they were younger and could plan and participate in activities on their own, without their Scouters doing everything for them or their parents dictating their every move. However, somewhere along the way those core values in Scouting – leadership, independence, teamwork and problem solving – were lost. The point of the Canadian Path is to find them once again. The Canadian Path was based on a greater need for youth involvement and to return to the core of Scouting.
If the youth can plan, do and review their own meetings, activities and events, they are on the Path.
If the youth can be leaders and teach the younger sections, their own sections and even their Scouters, they are on the Path.
If the youth can work with other youth and adults to discuss their own opinions, they are on the Path.
The Canadian Path allows youth to make their own decisions, gain responsibility, learn from their past actions and from each other. This allows youth to become engaged with the program, become independent, become more confident and participate in the program they want to be in, not the program that the Scouters want.
Oftentimes, I hear remarks from parents and Scouters that the youth aren’t old enough to make decisions. Sure, a Beaver can’t exactly plan a one week snowshoeing trip, but they sure can decide if they want to go on a winter camp. A Cub may not be able to completely plan their camp meals on their own, but with a little guidance from the Howlers and their Scouters it can be done. Being “little” doesn’t exempt anyone from all responsibilities. Just because they’re young doesn’t mean they can’t become more independent, make smart decisions, have opinions, learn important life skills and have fun all at the same time.
Just because they’re young doesn’t mean they can’t become more independent, make smart decisions, have opinions, learn important life skills and have fun all at the same time.
As an Area Youth Commissioner at that time, it was heartbreaking to think there were Scouters that were against the Canadian Path. The Path consists of four main components – youth-led, plan-do-review, adventure, and SPICES. To be against the Path was essentially being against a program in which the youth could make decisions, do what they wanted, learn from mistakes, go on adventures and grow in different ways. Being against the Path meant to me that people thought that I wasn’t worthy of the roles and responsibilities I held, the qualities that I have gained and the experiences I had. But I knew that I was capable and the other youth were too.
To be on the Canadian Path is to know, acknowledge, and act upon the fact that youth should be involved every step of the way. The youth are the future of the world, what good does it do to hold them back from all their potential?
One might say I’ve done a lot within Scouts Canada but I cannot express enough that I have been extremely fortunate because everyone I have worked with valued youth participation and leadership. Without these values that the Canadian Path contains, there would not have been an opportunity for people like myself to become more involved in Scouting and truly experience what this organization really is.