Scouting in Canada Update

An update from Scouts Canada’s national leadership

By Scouters Ted Claxton and Liam Morland, May 17, 2004

The Update session occurred twice and consisted of some introductory remarks followed by a question and answer period. Panelist were Jeff Smith, Deputy Chief Commissioner for Program Services; Kim Derry, Deputy Chief Commissioner for Central Canada; Mike Scott, Chief Commissioner; and Rob Stewart, Executive Commissioner and CEO. The sessions were moderated by Barry Hardaker, National Field Executive.

Scouter Mike said that the most critical issue is membership, in particular, volunteer recruitment. To address this issue, the Board of Governors will be holding a special meeting on Saturday, May 8. The board will be meeting with selected section Scouters, old and new, to discuss what brought them to Scouting and why they stay. With the help of a professional facilitator who is volunteering their time, the group will come up with an action plan for getting more volunteers. Mike also indicated that the Board is looking to simply risk management procedures.

Rob spoke next and reiterated the importance of membership. As of the the date of Conference, Scouts Canada membership was 112,000, or 84% of last year. Rob expects a few thousand more to trickle in before the end of the year on August 31. Despite this decline, Rob happily reported that about 1000 groups grew or held constant their membership. Rob emphasized the importance flexibility, particularly when moving into new cultural communities.

Rob indicated that the National portion of the registration fee would remain the same in 2004/05 as it was this year: $25 fee plus $15 for insurance for a total of $40. He has challenged the councils to hold their fees constant as well.

Rob acknowledged that there is a communications challenge in Scouts Canada. He said that the August Reid polling done in the late 1990s had found that members were satisfied, but that the general public was not aware of what Scouts Canada offers. He said that a priority is to develop tools that will help promote Scouting.

Regarding internal communications, Rob acknowledged that the past five years have had more changes then ever before. He does not foresee any major changes, though realities in the insurance industry have and may still force changes.

Insurance companies, Rob said, treat Scouts Canada like a business. They have demanded that risk-reducing changes be implemented rapidly, leaving little or no time for consultation. In the past, four or five insurance companies were competing for Scouts Canada's business. Now, the broker had to go looking for coverage. Only one company was interested this year.

This issue is affecting many youth serving organizations in Canada, according to Rob, and Scouts Canada is ahead of others. Some organizations have had their insurance pulled with no little warning. Most of the industry is not interested in non-profit organizations. Rob said that Scouts Canada and other non-profits have a meeting this spring with the Insurance Bureau of Canada to discuss the concerns of the insurance industry.

Rob reported that a new version of Bylaw, Policies, and Procedures (BP&P) is almost done and is expected to be available in the fall.

Rob would like to make more use of youth, such as Rovers, in section leadership. He said this is the ultimate test. Scouting has been successful if Scouting-trained youth can run our programs.

Rob spoke about the business aspects of Scouts Canada and asked whether the organization can afford as many shops and offices as it had in the past. Rod observed that many Scout Shops lose money, largely due to staff costs. Staff has been cut by 40% this year through consolidation and the elimination of duplication.

In response, Scouter Tony Roberts asked about the Niagara Scout Shop. Scouter Tony said that Scouts Canada closed this popular Scout Shop claiming that staffing costs made it unviable. Scouter Tony observed that the shop was an all-volunteer operation and so had no staffing costs. Scouter Tony wanted to know why was it closed. Rob said they would investigate and get back to them. As of a month later, Scouter Tony had hear nothing back.

Some questions were asked about how Scouts Canada's lack of democracy. You can read more in "Democracy: The Right to Complain".