WFIS World Conference 2004

Report on the World Federation of Independent Scouts meeting in BC

By Scouter Ron Long, October 2, 2004

In 1996, some of the non-WOSM Scouting associations met in Laubach, Germany where they agreed to federate as the World Federation of Independent Scouts (WFIS). Six years later in 2002, they held their first World Jamboree in Denmark. There was a contingent in BC that was anxious to attend, decided not to because many members were from cattle producing areas, and Mad Cow and Hoof and Mouth diseases in Europe were in the news at the time. It was shame because it was a real deal financially. The registration fees for the entire Jamboree, including food and firewood, was 800 Danish Krona (about CA$125).

Since that time, membership in the WFIS has been steadily growing. Many Scouting associations in North America, South America, Australasia, Europe, and more recently in Africa, have been becoming dissatisfied with both the policies and their treatment as member of WOSM. In response they have sought out and have been granted membership in the WFIS. This rapid growth made it necessary for these remote associations to to find a way of reaching agreement on many levels, including programs, policies, and administration.

An arbitrary decision was reached wherein each continent would be considered its own Council. After all, what right does Europe have in creating administrative policies for South America? As these Continental Councils starting asking questions as to how, why, and who, it became necessary to hold a World Conference in order that each Continental Council should have the opportunity to express themselves. Canada was selected as the location because in the minds of the other Councils, we are central. The Okanagan Valley was selected for many reasons, the most of which was because I was stupid enough to volunteer to organize it!

After checking out several venues, we settled on the Fintry Estate on the western shore of Lake Okanagan, about half way between Kelowna and Vernon. I selected this particular venue, not only because it was flat and close to the water, but because it had a historical connection with Traditional Scouting. The original owner and developer of the Fintry Ranch was James Dun-Waters (born in Scotland in 1862). Dun-Waters was an old acquaintance of Earl Grey, Governor General of Canada and donor of the Grey Cup. It was while visiting Earl Grey in Canada that Dun-Waters and Grey went on a hunting trip to BC. It was then that Dun-Waters first saw the site that he was to later turn into the Fintry Ranch. Here's where the plot thickens!

As you are all well aware, when Scouting spread to Canada around 1910, the founder, Baden-Powell, came to Canada to ask his friend Earl Grey to be the Chief Scout of Canada, in his capacity as Governor General. It is believed that about that time, Earl Grey told B-P of his friend out in BC. It was sometime shortly after their marriage in 1912 that Robert and Olave Baden-Powell travelled to Fintry, BC as guests of James and Alice Dun-Waters. So B-P spent several weeks as a guest at the very same location where the WFIS World Conference was held. We missed seeing him by about 90 years! B-P's presence at Fintry are evidenced by letters and writings in the Fintry Archives.

The result of the Conference was that the two delegates from each Continental Council (Chairman and Secretary General or alternates) agreed on matters of policy. In order that all councils would be operating from the same page they formulated a constitution for the guidance of all Continental Councils, established a World Council, and elected officers of the World Council to sit until the next World Jamboree. It was agreed to hold the 2007 WFIS World Jamboree in Chile, South America. Since the southern hemisphere has its summer during our winter, we are looking forward to dodging some Canadian winter in 2007.

I have to make special mention here of a young man who virtually saved the day for me. Arrangements had been made to have translators available since the South American delegates did not speak English. At the last minute, the translators were unavoidably not available. Through our Hispanic Group in the Vancouver area a call went out. Overnight a young man named Jose Luis Garcia stepped forward and volunteered to fill the void. Jose hails from Mexico and has virtually taught himself to speak impeccable English. He is not at present involved in Scouting, but is now giving it serious consideration. He worked tirelessly as a go-between for both the Spanish and Italian speaking delegates and won high praise for his efforts. At the end of the conference, he was made an honorary member of the World Council.

Since there are no paid executives in any of the WFIS associations, it should be noted that all the delegates attended this conference either at their own expense, at that of their associations, or a combination of both. In an attempt to lighten the fiscal burden of such a venture, the BPSA-BC, as the sponsoring association, managed to develop sufficient corporate co-operation to cover the costs of the Conference. Another special vote of thanks must also go out to ScoutsCan-Issues list member "Chancewolf". He was instrumental, through his employer, in getting us the use of some military tents (circa 1941) which went a long way in helping to preserve the traditional atmosphere of the conference.

It was also agreed to put together a single WFIS web site, with each Continental Council having its own page. So there should be plenty of pictures available once the site opens. As it is, there may be some on the individual sites as they presently exist.

Lastly, we wish to give a big vote of thanks to "the Weatherman". The BC weather in September was headed for both the coldest and wettest September on record, right up until the opening flag break on Thursday morning. At that point, the clouds drifted away and were never seen again for the duration of the conference.

So that, in a BIG nut shell, is the update on the First World Conference of the World Federation of Independent Scouts.

Ron Long
WFIS Conference Coordinator

Member Countries

There are something in the neighbourhood of 50 member associations in these 34 member countries. Each member association is represented withing their country, each country is represented at the Continental Council, and each Continental Council is represented at the World Council. It was the World Council that met a couple of weeks ago on the shores of Lake Okanagan, at Fintry, BC.