Open Letter about the Scouts Canada Act

Posted January 5, 2007

Following the hearings at the Senate of Canada on the Scouts Canada Act, SCOUT eh! Chair Mike Reid sent this letter to Glenn Armstrong, Chief Commissioner of Scouts Canada:

December 18, 2006

Scouter Glenn Armstrong
Chief Commissioner and Chairman of the Board of Governors   Scouts Canada

Cc: Rob Stewart, Ted Claxton, Don Connors, SCOUT eh! Council Representatives

Dear Scouter Glenn,

It was indeed a pleasure to finally meet you at the Senate hearings earlier this month. It was good to see your enthusiasm for the upcoming Canadian Jamboree. I look forward to working with you and the many other Offers of Service at the event.

I write today in regards to the Scouts Canada Act. At third and final reading in the Senate there were speeches where there was an exchange between Senator Jaffer and Senator Di Nino as follows:

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, originally there were many other witnesses who wished to appear before the committee to give another point of view on the empowerment of Scouting and what this bill will do. Would the Honourable Senator Di Nino agree that for reasons of time they were not called, especially young women who had benefited and wanted this change?

Senator Di Nino: Yes, honourable senators, that is very true.

Senator Jaffer is a great Scouter, by the way. I should have mentioned her. She has probably been as active as I have, if not more so. I had been talking about bringing a number of people to tell the other side of the story, but I think we all know about the pressure that the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs is under.

This bill has been around since 2003. As I said, in 2007 we will celebrate the centenary of Scouting, which is now around the corner. Considering the fact that we will be recessing soon and this bill must still go to the House of Commons, hopefully that will be done before February 24, which is the official date when the gala celebrations will take place. That is my wish, but I do not know if that can happen. I hope that honourable senators will attend. It will be held here in Ottawa.

The committee decided not to invite any witnesses to speak on the other side of the issue simply because time did not permit. I thank the Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs for taking this bill on for the purposes that I mentioned.

The revelation made in the above quoted speeches of Senator Jaffer and Senator Di Nino came as a rather disconcerting piece of information. We had not been informed that there would be youth members in the wings to make representation to the Committee. We feel that it would be inappropriate to use youth members as vehicles for debate over the issue of governance in Scouts Canada. Indeed, when we formed the Association of Ordinary-members (SCOUT eh!) we carefully considered whether we should admit youth members. After considerable discussion there appeared to be a significant majority who felt that we would be accused of having undue influence over the young people who were under our leadership. They would be viewed as tainted fruit in any forum. As a result our Constitution provides that one must be of the age of majority to be a member of SCOUT eh! Further consideration of this issue was left open and our SCOUT eh! Constitution provides that the lowering of the age for membership from the age of majority can be accomplished by a majority vote of the membership.

We have no doubt that there are young women who have benefited from the Scouting program. One of the members of the current Board was a Scout in my Troop and, and as you heard from Scouter Ted Claxton, there are a number of girls in his troop who would rather not be boy scouts. We have decided that it is contrary to the best interests of Scouting and not in the interest of the Youth members to set them up against each other in a forum where dialogue is not part of the process. SCOUT eh! will not recruit any youth members to speak to the issue in Parliament. We would hope that you would likewise exercise discretion in this matter.

On another note, the House of Commons is now adjourned until the 29th of January. There is no telling how long the Bill may be in coming to Committee nor what will happen to it in a Committee. Given the recent speeches of party leaders for the Liberals and the Bloc Quebecois, there is no telling whether the current session will last long enough to deal with this or any other Bill. An election call would delay the Bill for a substantial time.

To expedite matters for the Centennial we have taken the liberty of attaching a Draft Bill for your consideration, based on a simple amendment that would effect a change name, substitute the word youth for the word boy and change the designation of the short form of the Act so that it will be denominated as the Scouts Canada Act. (There is good precedent for this latter amendment as the British North America Act, 1867 was renamed and section 1 thereof now reads 1. This Act may be cited as the Constitution Act, 1867)

If you wish an amending Bill such as this to be passed in Parliament (in the basic terms of the attached proposal) we are prepared to inform the House and the Senate that we have no objection and we would indicate to both Chambers that we would not object to the waiver of the rules to accommodate immediate passage of the Amending Bill. This would accomplish the desired name change for the Centennial celebrations while in the meantime ensuring us all the opportunity to see that Scouts Canada Priority No. 7 on democracy is properly discussed by all members and further implemented. We feel that a Bill that truly reflects the new century of Scouting would in due course be placed before the Senate and House of Commons with full accord of the majority of Scouts Canadas membership.

I remain at your disposal to discuss this further.

In the meantime, on behalf of the membership and executive of Scout eh!, I would like to wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a healthy and prosperous New Year.

Sincerely yours in Scouting friendship,

Scouter Michael P. Reid
Chair, SCOUT eh!

Statutes of Canada 1914 Chapter 130
Statutes of Canada 1961 Chapter 82
Statutes of Canada 1969 Chapter 68, Section 1

An Act respecting Scouts Canada


WHEREAS The Boy Scouts of Canada / Les Boy Scouts du Canada has by its petition prayed that it be enacted as hereinafter set forth, and it is expedient to grant the prayer of the petition: Therefore Her Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate and House of Commons of Canada, enacts as follows:—

  1. The name of the Corporation, Boys Scouts of Canada in English and Les Boy Scouts du Canada in French, is hereby changed to Scouts Canada, in both English and in French. Such change in name shall not in any way impair, alter or affect the rights or liabilities of the Corporation, nor in any way affect any suit or proceeding now pending, or judgment existing, either by or in favour of or against the Corporation, which, notwithstanding such change in the name of the Corporation, may be prosecuted, continued, completed and enforced as if this Act had not been passed, and any suit or legal proceeding that might have been commenced or continued by or against the Corporation by its former name may be commenced or continued by or against the Corporation by its new name.
  2. That subparagraph 2.a be repealed and be re-enacted as follows,
    1. The instructing of youth in the principles of discipline, loyalty and good citizenship, and otherwise as provided in and by the Royal Charter of the Said Association;
  3. That the Act created by SC 1914 c.130 may hereinafter be cited as the Scouts Canada Act.