Editorial: Corporate land grab — St. Thomas Times-Journal

St. Thomas Times-Journal, March 29, 2004.

Less than a decade ago, the Scouting movement still played a significant role in the character and moral development of youngsters in every corner of the country.

Today Scouts Canada is fighting for its existence a struggle more of philosophical ideals and corporate health than the relevance of Scouting in a changing societal environment.

In 1997 Scouts Canada boasted 228,000 members, a number that plummeted to 133,000 in 2003, leaving the organization $3 million in debt.

That death spiral is even more evident in Elgin county where membership has dropped 140 in the last year alone and the 2004 total of 458 is less than half the 1997 figure of 950.

Elgin is also the scene of a struggle between a dedicated group of long-serving leaders and the corporate entity that today is Scouts Canada. At stake, a 60-acre environmental classroom known as Camp Timken.

Located near Iona, Camp Timken could be on the sales block in less than a month in an effort to stem the tide of red ink at Scouts Canada.

A properties report, dated June, 2003, dismisses Camp Timken as "a property that had very little of special significance." It fails to document the value placed on the outdoor camping experience gained by countless thousands of Scouts who have learned to live in harmony with the natural environment.

The sale of Camp Timken, warns Karen Palmer, who resigned as area commissioner in January, "cannot stop the financial and volunteer member hemorrhaging" in the Scouting movement across the country. The Elgin leaders are exploring their legal options in an effort to delay or overturn the corporate land grab by Scouts Canada.

The silver lining in this could well be the emergence of the Baden-Powell Scouts Association, formed in 1970 to "perpetuate the principles and practices of Scouting laid down by Robert Baden-Powell in 1907."

An organization far more worthy of bearing the Scouting motto, "Be prepared."