Comment on the Chief Commissioner's Keynote Address

January 11, 2006 — Comment on the Chief Commissioner's Keynote Address Made to Voting Members and Senior Staff on the Occasion of the after dinner remarks at the Annual General Meeting of Scouts Canada, November 26, 2005

Our new Chief Commissioner, Glen Armstrong, took the opportunity at the AGM to address the Voting Members, Board of Governors, Officers, and Senior Staff of Scouts Canada who were in attendance at at Camp Samac in Oshawa. His address is posted on the Scouts Canada website

Scouter Glenn has had a long connection with the Scouting movement. We may hope that his experience will have grounded him in the fundamental principles of Scouting. Those principles are expounded in the World Organisation of the Scout Movement (WOSM) document The Essential Principles of Scouting. In that document WOSM plainly states that:

A voluntary movement depends upon participation of all its members, male and female, young as well as older, at all levels, in the decision-making process. As part-owners, or "stakeholders" in the Movement, they must be actively involved in managing its affairs in a democratic manner. (emphasis added)

In his address, Scouter Glenn reviewed the Strategic Priorities. One of the strategic priorities in the final draft, namely priority 7.1, has as its aim "Democratic reform designed to enhance the capability of Councils and Areas to have input and influence on the decisions of the Board of Governors, and enhanced responsibility to implement policy decisions of the Board."

We, the members, must have real democratic processes by which we can effectively exercise our authority as part owners and stakeholders. Without democratic processes the membership is relegated to the status of mere adjunct program functionaries. Scouts Canada, having consigned us to the role of "ordinary-member" has in fact designated us as mere adjunct program functionaries. As members of the Movement we have the right to democratic participation. We can hope that our Chief Commissioner will make it his priority to rescue us, the ordinary-members, from our ignominious status and restore us to our rightful place in the "Scouts Canada organization."

In his address Scouter Glenn noted that, "We are a volunteer-lead organization solidly backed by professional staff,..." In my speech to the AGM in 2004 I emphasized that in a volunteer movement there was no room for the mantra "Staff Led, Volunteer Supported." In regard to paid staff the WOSM Essential Principles of Scouting states:

The fact that Scouting is a voluntary movement does not mean that it does not use paid professionals, on a full or part-time basis, to support its work. Where the need exists and resources permit, some people may be employed to fulfil specific roles that contribute to the effective and efficient achievement of Scouting's purpose but which demand an extended time commitment; usually such people share the strong commitment to the Scout Movement. The use of professionals and a good volunteer-professional partnership strengthens the Movement and increases its effectiveness.

The excessive measure and extent of control currently being exercised by staff has led to the rupture of the volunteer-professional partnership. The arrogant, condescending attitude of a number of senior staff members in dealing with the program volunteers is intolerable. We can hope that the Chief Commissioner will be as good as his word so that the staff will clearly understand their support role for the members who, as volunteers, carry out the mission of the movement.

Scouter Ted