For the past two years I have had the privilege of serving as one of the voting delegates for Voyageur Council. If elected, this will be my last time to serve in this role as it always good to bring in someone with new ideas. I have been an active member of Scouts Canada for the past 60 years – 10 years as a Cub, Scout and Venturer and 50 years as a scouter with groups in Oakville, Toronto, Kingston, Kincardine, Manotick and as of two years ago, Kemptville. My involvement as a scouter has always been at the section and group level. I am also one of the original members of Scout Eh.
The voting delegates have a formal role (to vote at the annual general meeting for board members) and an informal role – to act as a liaison between members of the Scouting movement and the Board of Governors. Voting delegates have no authority to set policy or become involved in operational items. However, the Board has recently used them as a sounding board on the direction of Scouts Canada. This has been a positive change.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been very tough on Scouts Canada. Our membership is down more than 60% and it will be very difficult for many individual Scout groups to recover. In fact, it is an open question at the moment as to whether Scouts Canada can recover to become a relevant movement again for the youth in Canada.
If elected, there are four issues I would like to highlight with Scouts Canada.
- Scouting is an organization full of great friendships and companionship. However, we have very high turnover of leaders and a lot of dissatisfaction with both the support provided (training) and the resolution of adult conflicts within Scouting. We need to work together to rebuild the movement respectfully. The internal discipline process is not conducive to this – too many leaders are sent out of Scouting with no chance to provide their side of the story and no chance to work out the issue, contrary to the bylaws, policies and procedures. This approach to problem resolution needs to change. Note I am referring to adult type conflicts, NOT issues related to youth.
- Scouting at all levels should ask former scouters who have left the movement for whatever reason to come back and help us rebuild. Their experience in invaluable and we should let them know the organization is listening and changing.
- Properties is a controversial issue. With the decrease in membership, the revenue for most Scouts Canada camps will be far less than expenses. We need to hold on to many of these camps and let local camp committees and volunteers continue the great work they have done in the past without excessive control from above.
- Training is best delivered in person with experienced scouters and trainers. The administrative side (paperwork and forms) can be done on-line but we need to encourage in-person training and support on how to deliver a great program and how to deal with youth and other leaders.
A successful movement occurs at the section level – not the area, council or national level. Run a good program with lots of outdoor activities and youth will join. Allow individual sections and experienced leaders to have significant input as to how the organization should function and individuals will be willing to help others succeed. Support individuals with effective training and mentoring and sections will flourish.
If I am elected as a voting delegate, I will do my best to listen to others concerns about the direction of Scouting, but I promise to ask tough questions and challenge our leadership to make significant reform within the movement to reduce the bureaucracy, empower local groups and take steps to ensure we continue to own many of the properties we already have for future generations. As well, I believe every adult member of Scouting should be voting directly for Board positions and will push for this.
To survive as a significant movement we need to acknowledge we have major problems and be open and transparent with our membership. I am always open to comments and suggestions from others but I can guarantee that as a voting member I will ask tough questions and always vote for what I believe is best for the movement.