A Brief Explanation of Co-ed Scouting

How and why Scouts Canada opened its doors to everyone

By Scouter Liam Morland, November 1998

This article was published on November 4, 1998 as a letter in the Ottawa Citizen and on November 28, 1998 as a guest column in the Kitchener-Waterloo Record.

Scouts Canada has been embroiled in controversy recently due to the proposal to make co-ed Scouting mandatory. Many people are confused about why the "Boy Scouts" are going co-ed. I hope to clarify some issues here.

First, a little background. Until 1971, no Scouts Canada programs were officially co-ed (though co-ed Scouting existed here and there unofficially, mostly in small towns and rural areas). In 1971, Scouts Canada allowed Rover Scout Crews (ages 18-26) to become co-ed, at Crew option. In 1984, this local option was extended to Venturer Scout Companies (ages 14-17). In 1992, local option was opened to the rest of Scouts Canada's sections; Beavers (5-7) , Wolf Cubs (8-10), and Scouts (11-14). This change was intended to be an evolutionary step towards a fully co-ed Scouts Canada. Surveys within Scouting in the late 1980s showed strong interest in such a future.

The current debate is around a motion to be moved in November at National Council of Scouts Canada which would remove the local option and require all Scouts Canada sections to be co-ed, unless they are partnered with a religious denomination which prohibits this (very few groups fall into this category). So, why is "Boy Scouts" doing this?

There are two reasons why Scouting is co-ed in most parts of the world and should be everywhere else. Firstly, there are Scouting's Fundamental Principles. People are most familiar with Scouting's Principles as they are expressed in age appropriate terms in the Scout Law and Promise. DYB or Do Your Best is the best known. Scouting's Fundamentals are the beliefs which underlie all of Scouting. And one of the first things that one reads in the Fundamentals is that Scouting believes that discrimination is wrong. People should be treated equally and not put into separate boxes by the colour of their skin, their social class, their nationality, their religion, or their sex.

The second reason for non-segregated Scouting is education. Scouting is fun with purpose, the purpose being helping young people develop into responsible, capable citizens. Learning to work with the diversity in society, particularly with the other sex, is extremely important and represents the only way of really solving problems of harassment, family violence, and misunderstanding between the genders. In segregated programs, boys and girls learn to look for differences between themselves, widening the gulf between the sexes. In non-segregated Scouting, young people work together and learn that the other sex are people like them, not aliens from Mars or Venus.

Scouting is going co-ed, ending the segregation, for two reasons. Scouting believes that discrimination is wrong and that children of all sorts must learn to live together so that they can build a better world for everyone. Let's Do Our Best to make this happen.