Mere exercise in damage control — St. Thomas Times-Journal
St. Thomas Times-Journal, September 8, 2004.
I have had the opportunity to read the letter by Mike Scott, commissioner of Scouts Canada. (Sept. 4, Times-Journal: "Scouts Canada commissioner wants to clear the air" [see below]) His editorial comment is a mere exercise in damage control and spin doctoring.
It should be up to the Scouts Canada management to demonstrate why a property should be disposed of, not up to the local scouting organization to defend itself against decisions that were taken in a vacuum.
One of the most galling aspects is that in mid-summer, when many scouting members are on holiday or at camp, when most organizations are in downtime mode, the list of dispositions was made public. An arbitrary 15-day appeal period was set down. No reasons were given, nor was the analysis proved upon which the decision had been made. A sham appeal process was set up since it is impossible to know the reasons for the decision that is being appealed. The arrogance of our national leadership in stating to the public that there has been open and transparent process is just staggering. We are not against disposition of property; there may well be properties that should be disposed of. The problem is that Scouts Canada's management has put forward zero evidence to demonstrate that any of these properties are a burden on the program, and they have failed to gain agreement about the criteria that should be used to determine circumstance in which disposition is called for. The fact is that the recent reorganization took away from local scouting organizations any direct responsibility. The councils that now govern them are not accountable to the membership because the local groups have no representation on these councils. These councils are now made up strictly of appointees who go on their merry way without having to answer to anyone except the persons who appointed them.
Despite the rhetoric, this is not about what is best for youth, this is about management control. It is about the management saying jump and the youth and volunteers being on the way down before they think to ask how high.
Our adult leadership declined from 40,300 to 29,700 between 2002 and 2003. If 25 per cent of the workforce in a business quit in one year heads would roll. If our chief commissioner was being real about this he would put the whole process on hold, re-evaluate what is happening, and institute a process which has the aim of being consultative.
Scouts Canada management has adopted the wrong paradigm. Because the senior volunteers are not accountable to anyone but themselves their belief that they are on the right course is nothing but self-serving self-affirmation.
(Editor's Note: Camp Timken, a 65-acre (26.3 hectare) campground located near Iona that has served Elgin Scouts for nearly 30 years, is one of six in southwestern Ontario and 20 in the province placed on a "disposal list" by a Scouts Canada property review committee.)
St. Thomas Times-Journal, September 4, 2004.
[The letter above was in response to this letter.]
A great deal has been reported in the media lately, including this newspaper, concerning Scouts Canada's intention to reduce the number of properties it maintains and operates in Ontario. As the head of Scouts Canada, a volunteer position, I feel it is important to clear the air and ensure that everyone, both our adult and youth members and the general public, has all of the correct information concerning this situation.
Two years ago our eight Ontario councils began to look at more than 260 properties we own/lease in Ontario. This was done by a committee made up of volunteers and has involved extensive consultation with our members in communities across the province. The process included a call for submissions from local camp committees, meetings with those committees, surveys of our youth and adult members as to their camping needs and numerous meetings with senior volunteers across Ontario. All of this took place to ensure that we conducted an open and transparent process seeking widespread input from our members.
Our first priority for all of our camps is to meet the highest standards for health, water quality and safety to ensure our youth are always in the best possible environment. This has placed an increasing financial burden on the organization. In order to maintain these standards we must reduce the number of camps we support. The positive side of this reduction is that we will be able to upgrade the facilities at remaining camps.
I also understand and respect the fact that some Scouters have developed ties with some of these properties, which makes the process an emotional one. I ask, however, that everyone keep in mind our mission of contributing to the education of young people and focus on providing top-calibre facilities and programs.
For those camps that have been designated for closure there is an appeal process now under way so we can make sure we have not missed any important information in doing our analysis. Our position has always been that if the camp committee has a plan to make their camp financially viable we will keep it open. However, we will not subsidize camps in such a way that will cause us to increase membership fees or divert scarce financial resources away from program activities. Any proceeds from the sale of a camp will remain in the community to be used to help improve neighbouring camps or assist with local membership development.
Scouts Canada's goal is to provide excellent outdoor experiences to Canada's youth. This objective is very close to my heart as I was a Section Scouter as recently as two years ago, prior to becoming Chief Commissioner. Even with the prospect of selling some of our camps, I feel very comfortable that our Beavers, Cubs, Scouts, Venturers and Rovers will still have extensive opportunities to enjoy Canada's great outdoors within close proximity of their homes. We will not only continue to own a large number of camps but also have access to provincial/federal parks, land reserves, and privately owned facilities.
I am confident that Scouts Canada is moving in the right direction. We must stay focused on our number one priority: providing great programs to Canadian youth. It is essential that we not become too tied to camps that may not be meeting our needs today. After all, a Scout must be wise in the use of his or her resources.
Scouts Canada's Chief Commissioner,
St. Catharines, Ont.