Scouts Canada Act — What is it all about? Why should I do something?
The Scouts Canada Act, introduced as Senate Bill S-1001, will not merely change the name of the Organization. It will, we feel, also entrench several undesirable changes in structure and governance of Scouts Canada resulting in its “corporization”. The Scouts Canada Act passed in the Senate on December 7, 2006. It has had first reading in the House of Commons. The Bill will resume working its way through the House of Commons when Parliament resumes on January 29, 2007. We have been seeking the assistance of Members of Parliament to sponsor our Petition of Objection to the Act. We believe that we have secured that assistance. This will give us the opportunity to address the Bill when it comes before a Commons Committee.
Many scouters are in the dark about this process because Scouts Canada's management has kept the issues surrounding the Scouts Canada Act as quiet as possible. They have not consulted the membership about it in any way. The Scouts Canada Act comes from Scouts Canada's management, not from the membership. This is backwards. No bill affecting any matter of significance should be passed unless it has the unambiguous support of Scouts Canada's membership. Scouts Canada has already ignored the requirement for majority membership approval when By-Law No.1 was created to substantially alter the former General By-Law and then superseded that by more substantial changes under By-Law No.2. Those By-law changes created the Board of Governors who are nominated by a tiny group of unelected people then ratified by the 100 unelected "Voting Members", who include the 23 members of the existing Board. This structure is undemocratic; a violation of Scouting's Principles and a violation of Canadian values.
Without the support of the membership, Scouts Canada's management wants Parliament to pass a special Scouts Canada Act. The official position of Scouts Canada is that the Scouts Canada Act will just give us a name change and confirmation of the co-ed status of Scouts Canada and some minor updates. The Scouts Canada Act will actually have some significant effects on the structure and governance of Scouts Canada. We have drafted a legal document, a Petition of Objection, that will be filed with the Clerk of the House of Commons. This formal document outlines for Parliament the reasons why we object. In more simplified and non-technical terms here's what that objection says:
- The current act states that the purpose of Scouts Canada is "to promote and carry out in Canada the objects of the said Association". The purpose of the corporation is to support the association of Scouts and Scouters. The proposed act makes no reference to the association, just the corporation. The proposed act will grant Scouts Canada the powers of a natural person. This is the sort of language used to define business corporations. Scouts Canada is supposed to be a non-profit charity, consisting of Members of an Association. The proposed Scouts Canada act will change that around and will bring about the corporatization of the organization in which all power rests with a self selecting Board of Governors.
- The current act lists four specific functions of the Association. These functions all relate to supporting local Scouting organizations. The proposed act merely states, "The object of the Corporation is to promote the mission of Scouting among young persons". Since the mission of Scouting will be defined by By-laws created by the Board, this statement of purpose provides no guidance. Scouts Canada will be able to do whatever it wants and define it as "Scouting".
- Normally, corporations are required to have annual meetings of shareholders or, in the case of a membership corporation, a meeting of members. The proposed act has a clause that removes this requirement and substitutes an annual meeting "of the corporation". This will give legal sanction to the current practise of forbidding ordinary members of Scouts Canada from asking questions at annual meetings.
- The proposed act repeals all the previous acts dealing with Scouts Canada. This will erase the continuity of our historical legal authority and will abolish any rights that we members had under the previous act. Fundamentally, it is a new legal slate empowering the Board of Governors and disenfranchising the members.
- The effect of the repeal is that the new act will give legislative sanction to the recent by-law changes which divided Scouts Canada's membership into, 100 “Voting Members”, and everyone else as "Ordinary Members" (you and me), who have no vote or voice whatsoever in the operation of Scouts Canada.
- You can help by letting Scouts Canada know that this bill is unsatisfactory and by informing your Member of Parliament that you object to passage of the proposed Scouts Canada Act in the form presented by management.
- For more information see http://scoutdocs.ca/Scouts_Canada_Act_/