Rallies; Membership Passes 700
On Saturday, August 26, 2006, twenty-eight members of SCOUT eh! from Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Quebec, and Ontario rallied at Scouts Canada National Headquarters in Ottawa. Everyone who attended the Rescue Rally is a dedicated member of Scouting whose intent was to give a wake up call to the national leadership. We were there to let our organization know that we are still ready and willing to help turn things around. We were there to demand accountability by those in positions of authority and to get questions answered.
SCOUT eh! invited representatives of Scouts Canada's national leadership to attend the rally. A comfortable chair was provided for them, but it remained empty. Management chose to deflect accountability and to turn on the ignore button. The result was that the media asked questions of us rather than us asking questions of Scouts Canada management.
Although we ended up with a newspaper headline that is in fact contrary to the real point of the rally, the author of the article, Jorge Barrera of the Ottawa Sun, did pick up on the real point. The final quote in his article sums up our contention which is, as quoted, "Without some changes the organization will disappear".
SCOUT eh! believes in the words of our founder, Lord Baden-Powell, who wrote "What we want is broad-minded leadership rather than restrictive dictatorship — a democracy founded upon good-will". We believe that the 100,000 Ordinary Members of Scouts Canada should not be shut out of the decision-making process. We must be allowed to elect our own leadership.
The membership of SCOUT eh! has never stopped growing. The attention caused by the rally pushed membership to over 700 registered Scouts Canada members. In addition, there are 50 Associate Members (former Scouts Canada members) and 23 Friends.
A Full Weekend
Members began arriving on Thursday evening with the Atlantic contingent arriving on Friday afternoon at the Rideau River Provincial Park where we had booked a group campsite. About 14 went to a local family restaurant for a late supper on Friday. Afterwards the members held a campfire and Rally planning session.
On Saturday morning member began arriving at the National HQ shortly before 9:30. At that time our banner was set up, a tent was erected and graced with two pink flamingos. Several flags were set up along with chairs and a couple of tables. A nice comfortable folding camp chair was set aside for anyone from National. Regrettably, no one came to claim that place of honour.
All in all there were about 28 members in attendance over the day. Members in attendance were from Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Quebec, and Ontario. The elected BC representative was scheduled to come (at his own expense) but had to bow out at the last minute. Members from Atlantic Canada came a long way at their own expense to support the Rally. They should be specially thanked for their extraordinary effort to come and their enthusiastic participation. Quite a number of members took the time to send letters of support and their regrets that they could not personally come to attend the Rally. Of the 100 Rally Badges ordered. 88 were sold prior to and at the Rally. Those members thereby gave financial support to the Rally arising from the net proceeds. Scouts Canada also benefited as those badges were ordered from one of the Official Suppliers.
The Rally officially got under way at 10:00 on Saturday. SCOUT eh! Chairperson, Mike Reid, of Montreal opened the proceedings with a welcome message. He spoke about the importance of continuing to provide ideas for solutions to the many challenges facing Scouts Canada. Keeping a focus on positive change is essential to save Scouts Canada.
Scouter Mike Reid's message is important. Some Council Commissioners have said that SCOUT eh! is all about negativity and are using that line as an excuse to turn on the censorship button. They are taking deliberate action to stifle our message of hope for the future of Scouts Canada, a hope that is rooted in the ordinary-members obtaining a real say in the governance of our organization. It is our role to remind the management volunteers and staff that Scouts Canada belongs to the members, not to the Board of Governors. The betterment of Scouts Canada depends on the participation of the members in that governance. We must not loose sight of this positive and uplifting message in the course of critical analysis of our Scouts Canada governance.
Scouter Ted Claxton, the Treasurer, gave an overview of the purpose of our SCOUT eh!. He emphasized the fact that our purpose is to make Scouts Canada into a democratic organization that ensures that the members are in fact stakeholders. Our Scouts Canada organization exists to promote Scout-ing not to promote Scout-INC. He pointed out Scouts Canada is set up as a corporation without share capital, a corporation that consists of its members. We are now trapped in the Orwellian situation that some members are more equal than others. Indeed, a tiny minority have been made more equal than others. The Ordinary Members, who constitute the vast majority, are defined in a manner that their role is circumscribed as mere adjunct program functionaries. The few Voting Members and the Board of Governors counted among them, have a monopoly on the decision making and policy making. Scouter Ted pointed out that this corporate structure is entirely contrary to the fundamental principles of a movement and in conflict with the precepts laid down by WOSM.
Scouter Liam Morland, Secretary and Registrar of SCOUT eh!, then took the stage. He spoke about the membership statistics. In 2005, there were 21,069 Scouts and Venturers, fewer then in 1920. He pointed out that the quality of the statistics provided in the annual reports has plummeted along with the numbers involved in Scouting. Before computerization, there used to be very detailed statistics concerning participation of the youth in the program, the number of camp days, the ranks obtained, even down to the number of particular badges awarded. The statistics provided by Scouts Canada today are so generalized and diffuse that they are of little value in helping to analyze what is happening in the program.
Jorge Barrera, a reporter from the Ottawa Sun, arrived part way through Scouter Ted Claxton's talk. The members in attendance would rather have been talking to our Scouts Canada senior volunteers or some staff member delegated for that purpose or a Board member. Indeed Scouter Mike Reid had taken the trouble to write a letter of invitation. He asked that representation of management be on hand for the Rally to respond to questions from the members. His letter was was rebuffed. In his response to the rebuff Scouter Mike asked a second time and emphasized that, contrary to the impression gathered by the Chief Commissioner, we were not asking for the whole Board, Management Team and Senior Staff, just someone or a few people who could listen to us and report to us about what Scouts Canada was doing about the issues, the issues subsequently published in the rally pamphlet. The Ottawa Sun reporter stayed around and interviewed a several people. An article was published that Sunday.
The members then took a lunch break. SCOUT eh! extends thanks to the management of Harvey's restaurant on Baseline Road at Merivale for granting us the managers group discount. SCOUT eh! also thanks Wiebe Bergsma, an associate member from Oshawa, who arranged the discount for us.
After lunch, the members divided into groups to discuss the various issues and to consider what we should do and contemplate what positive proposals we can put to Scouts Canada for the betterment of our organization. The members reassembled and each group reported on the issues that they had discussed.
After the reporting session the members formed up and paraded in front of the Scouts Canada headquarters. This provided a great photo opportunity. After the parade the members visited the Scout Museum. We much appreciated that opportunity which was provided for us by one of the volunteers who looks after the museum. After our tour we retired to our meeting place on the front lawn to have our closing, clean up, and farewell to those who had to leave.
The remaining members headed out to the Rideau Provincial Park where we were joined by other local members who were not able to attend during the day. We had a Bar-B-Que and a campfire.
On Sunday morning, we had our breakfast and packed up. After a closing horseshoe, everyone departed, energized to continue the work that is so important to us: running our Scout sections while making Scouts Canada a better organization.