Speaking Points Refuted

September 14, 2004

Scouts Canada has released a memo with speaking points on the restructuring and camp sales. Here is the text of Scouts Canada's memo (indented text) and our response.

Speaking Points: Scouts Canada's New Structure

To help us achieve the Mission, Scouts Canada continues to make adjustments to allow us to be more effective in providing support to our local section leaders.

Translation: We are exercising more and more control from above. The changes have resulted in worse support not better.

Last May representatives from across Canada (all volunteers) approved By-Law 2. It establishes the framework for governing the organization and ensures that Scouts Canada is a volunteer-led, volunteer-driven, staff-supported organization.

These volunteers were a tiny group that did not have any mandate from the membership. Under the amendments to By-law No.1 a class of voting members was created. These Voting members are not elected. They were selected by appointees who have no accountability to the Ordinary Members.

Volunteers are involved in every step of any decision-making process, identifying issues and trends, consulting with youth and sharing findings and recommendations with the volunteers who serve on all our National committees and the Board of Governors.

Democracy is not "involvement" in the decision-making process. They have that in China. Democracy is control of the decision-making process through the election of representatives.

The Board is comprised entirely of volunteers, with the exception of the Executive Commissioner/Chief Executive Officer (CEO), and they make all policy for the entire organization.

It is irrelevant that the Board are all volunteers. They got there by being selected by a clique of appointees. They have no mandate from the membership and are accountable only to each other. No staff member, not even the CEO, should have a vote on the Board.

Scouts Canada uses the Parliamentary model of governance to make its decisions (i.e. representatives from each council); this ensures fair representation for all parts of the country.

Our Members of Parliament are directly elected by the citizens of this country. Neither the members of the Board nor the representatives from each council are elected. The 130,000 Ordinary Members of Scouts Canada have no vote; no say in the decision-making.

To ensure equal and fair opportunity for voting and for input, each of our 20 councils select or elect three volunteers including, one youth under the age of 27. These volunteers are voting members at Scouts Canada's Annual General Meeting and they have the majority of votes to elect the Board of Governors.

The three voting members per council are not elected by the membership. The 20 Council commissioners are appointed by the Chief Commissioner. Those 20 Council Commissioners appoint their own teams of Deputy Commissioners and Area Commissioners. This group, appointed from above, select the three voting representatives. The Ordinary Members have no vote on anything and in most cases do not even know who the three representatives are. This is a system of circular appointments, not democracy.

Since the passage of Bylaw No. 2, we now have more elected representatives than ever before. (20 councils x3=60 versus 10 provinces/1 territory x3=33)

It doesn't matter how many representatives there are. They are not elected by the membership and therefore have no mandate to speak on behalf of the membership. Legitimacy comes from the vote.

We now have less structure between the members and the voting members which means that local Councils have direct representation at the national level.

There are no "local councils" anymore. In the past, districts covered a single town and had an elected board. A modern council covers a entire province or a large part of a province hundreds of kilometres across. These are big, anonymous entities which are not themselves accountable to the membership. Less structure doesn't help if the structure is not democratic.

A democratic process has brought about this new system. The majority in the organization's volunteers wanted us to move in this direction.

Scouts Canada's membership never had an opportunity to vote on the restructuring. Rather, there was sever opposition to the change. The change was voted in by a bunch of non-elected people with no mandate from the membership. In any case, what is important is what is happening now. The reality now is that the membership has no vote. This is reprehensible.

The Nominating Committee for the Board of Governors is made up of all volunteers (who are ultimately chosen locally). No paid staff sit on the committee.

The composition of the Nominating Committee is a small issue next to the fact that the only people who can vote for the nominees are a tiny group of unelected people. Democracy means member control through the vote.

The Board of Governors is made up of 22 volunteers plus the CEO. He is the only staff member who has a vote in the organization.

The fact that the Board of Governors is made up of volunteers is irrelevant. The question is this, to whom are they accountable? None of the members of the Board are elected by the Ordinary Members. None have a mandate to speak on behalf of the membership. The only structure that is consistent with Scouting's Principles is one where the members of the Board are democratically elected by the membership at large in a free and fair election.

Who runs Scouts Canada? The day to day affairs of Scouts Canada are overseen by the Operations Advisory Committee (formerly Executive Committee) which is made up of nine volunteers and seven staff members. This means that the seven staff members and any two volunteers have a majority say in how Scouts Canada carries on its day to day operations. The seven volunteers are the Chief Commissioner and eight Deputy Executive Commissioners who are appointees of the Chief Commissioner. No staff member should have a vote in the running of Scouts Canada.

Speaking Points: Ontario Property Review

Over a two-year period, Ontario's property review committee, made up of volunteers from Ontario, has conducted extensive consultation with members in communities across the province.

The review process was conducted largely in secret. Most adult members of Scouts Canada did not know it was happening. Consultation was minimal, half-hearted, and the results misinterpreted.

The process included a call for submissions from 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. This ensured an open and transparent process that received widespread input from our members.

The process included threatening letters sent to camp committees, poorly written surveys with minimal participation, and meetings with unelected "senior volunteers" who have no accountability to the membership.

Safety of our youth is our first priority and changing standards and regulations around health, water and the environment continue to have a significant impact on our ability to maintain camps. After closely looking at each location, the property review committee determined that a number of camps didn't make the grade in one or more of these areas. As such a number of camps have been identified for closure.

The criteria for these decisions has never been made public. Closed-minded thinking has dominated. If a camp's water supply does not meet standards, groups can bring water from home. It is far better to have a camp with no water supply then no camp at all.

An appeal process is now underway so that our members have one last opportunity to supply any information that may have been missing from the process and to also provide the committee with a viable financial plan for the camp. Once a review of the new information is complete a final decision will be made about which camps will be put up for sale.

The sales were announced in the middle of the summer when people were away at camp or on holidays. People are being asked to appeal a decision without being told the reason why the decision was made. The people to whom the appeal is being made were not elected by the membership and are accountable only upwards to the unelected Board of Governors.

Any proceeds from the sale of a camp will remain in the community and be used to help improve neighbouring camps or assist with local membership development.

No plan has been presented which shows how the money will be used to improve Scouting. No evidence has been presented which show that Scouting will benefit more from the money then it does from owning the camp.

It is important to note that youth have been the primary focus of this review. Ultimately, Scouts Canada's goal is to provide excellent outdoor experiences to Canada's youth.

By what right does an unaccountable group of people claim that a particular camp is not the home of "excellent outdoor experiences"? Section Scouters have the training and experience to judge whether a camp is a good place to play the game of Scouting.

Even with the prospect of selling some of our camps, 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 vast number of camps but also have access to provincial/federal parks, land reserves, and privately owned facilities.

With these sales, some groups will have to drive hours to get to a camp. Others will have only one camp nearby. Going to the same place over and over gets boring. Non-Scouting facilities usually do not allow many important Scouting activities, such as gathering fire wood, building shelters, and noisy wide games. There is no substitute for a Scout camp.

Subsidizing money-losing camps or camps that need significant financial investment to meet safety standards, results in increased fees or diverting money away from program activities. None of our members wish to see increased fees, including those who oppose camp closures.

There are many camps on the to-sell list that have never cost Scouts Canada any money. These camps are locally-supported and self-sufficient. If a part of a camp (building, pool, water supply) doesn't meet safety standards, that part of the camp can be closed, rather then selling the whole camp.