Message from Andrew Obee — Scouts Canada Board Chair
At our first meeting, the board finalized the key areas that we will be focusing on in the coming year:
Facilitate the return to in-person Scouting
As you might imagine, navigating the constantly changing government restrictions across the country as the COVID-19 infection rates fluctuate is a challenge. The Board is supporting management both nationally and at the Council level across the country, to facilitate Scouting in the safest possible way. We support all the initiatives that are currently underway to support virtual and socially distanced program activities and will continue to adjust our approach as the situation evolves.
I want to assure everyone that we share the desperate desire to return to in person Scouting, weekly in-person meetings, indoor activities, and traditional camping and other outdoor experiences. We will get back to those things as soon as possible, however; across much of the country, it is still not safe to do so, and safety must remain our primary focus right now.
Development of the 2021+ Strategic Plan for Scouts Canada
A massive development project was undertaken following the release of the Action Plan for Scouting that led to a national engagement and rollout of a Strategic Plan in 2014. Since that time, each year, we have focused on key elements of that plan such as safety, program quality, volunteer support, and building the Scouts Canada brand. The existing plan served us well, but a decision in early 2020 was made to drive the development of a new strategic plan in 2021. We expect this plan to be very focused on how Scouts Canada will weather the COVID-19 storm and emerge on the best possible footing to return to delivering on our mission, as quickly as possible. You can expect a number of opportunities to share your thoughts and best advice as we work through the plan development process in the near future.
Volunteer Engagement and Support
Supported volunteers, who are fully engaged in delivering an amazing program using the Scout method, to young people across the country, are they key to the successful future of Scouts Canada. Now, more than ever, improving communications across the organization is critical. This does not mean more emails from the national office, it means more opportunities to share your ideas, hear about what is going on, and provide your input so that it can help craft what the future of Scouting in Canada looks like. Many Scouters are desperately seeking ways to truly connect with leadership and with their peers. In this strange pandemic situation, finding ways to connect, share ideas, receive information on what others are doing and to build the interpersonal relationships that sustain Scouters resilience is critical. We will be looking to build and expand on the successes we had with improving two-way communications with groups like the Council Voting Members, Group Commissioners, and individual Council Scouters and focus on creating a plan to bring that type of communication to all regions of the country.
Making sure that Scouters across the country have access to accurate information helps minimize misinformation and will ultimately build greater trust. Hearing from committed Scouters from across the country on important topics will also be a critical component of our strategic planning process. This will ensure that any plan that is developed benefits from input coming from front-line Scouters and Council teams, as well as staff and volunteers at the national level.
Diversity & Inclusion
The board recognizes that Scouts Canada must be a place that embraces and welcomes everyone, that opposes racism and discrimination in all its forms, and benefits from the inclusion of a diverse set of backgrounds, perspectives and lived experiences. We recognize that this is a topic for which we need to seek the help of others, both from inside and outside Scouts Canada, to ensure that we move forward in a thoughtful manner to reach out and engage Canadians as broadly as possible across as many different communities, cultures, and backgrounds as possible. We need to invest in understanding Scouts Canada’s history, success and failures of the past as well as the opportunities that exist in the future.
The Board knows that we must lead by example in this regard and has asked the Nominating Committee of the Board to consider how the nominations process can help support the Board in balancing how it is providing appropriate leadership on Diversity and Inclusion, in addition to the other important dimensions such as geographical representation, youth participation, and professional skills.
Properties is clearly an emotional topic with many different perspectives often based on a personal experience with some of our properties. It is also a challenging topic at a national level. On one hand properties represent such a great resource to help deliver core elements of the Scouts Canada program and allow our members to experience Scouting in the outdoors. They are also repositories of much of our history and traditions that form a great foundation of the Scouting experience for so many of our members. On the other hand, they are expensive to maintain, increasingly difficult to keep safe, and are generally not very well used by Scouts Canada members. Finding a way to balance these factors is a complicated and difficult undertaking.
The levels of trust that exist when talking about this topic is far too low and we need to do what we can to increase this trust. I can assure everyone that there is currently no grand plan that has yet to be communicated regarding properties. Individual board members, staff members, and volunteers may have personal views, priorities, or thoughts, but I ask that you accept that no decisions have yet been made. Soliciting feedback and input from members across the country on this topic are a genuine attempt to hear your thoughts and perspectives so that they can be considered as a final strategy is developed.
The Board has agreed that the most important objective on this topic is to articulate a clear strategy for how Scouts Canada Properties will support our mission going forward as soon as possible. Given the challenges faced by many groups in finding meeting locations as a result of COVID-19 related restrictions, this group will also be working to determine if there are any things that can be done nationally to help.
We will continue to engage members as this work continues. Once a final path forward is identified, we understand that there will those who support the decision, as well as those who may not. There is unlikely to be a perfect solution that satisfies all and thus I ask everyone to try their best to help move this forward in a way that support the mission of Scouts Canada.
Yours in Scouting,
Section Scouter — 5th Meadowvale
Chair, Board of Governors — Scouts Canada