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The death of Canadian scouting

By Hans Zeiger
web posted August 16, 2004

Big Canadian real estate is on the market. A rather sizable chunk of Lord Robert Baden-Powell's Empire is available for investors, homebuilders, fishing resort prospectors, or blacktop barons. Scouts Canada is pounding in "for sale" signs at the entrances of a number of Scout camps across the country, including at least twenty camps in Ontario. But don't worry. No Boy Scouts will mourn the loss of their summer camps, for the Boy Scouts of Canada no longer exist.

Thinking they could become more inclusive, the Boy Scouts of Canada Board of Governors decided in November 1998 to admit females, atheists, agnostics, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transsexuals into troops. Despite that established troops were not even allowed to remain all-male groups, Scouts Canada approved the establishment of the world's first all-homosexual troop in 1999. The troop marches in homosexual pride parades and loudly symbolizes what Scouts Canada calls its commitment to diversity.

Scouts Canada's new non-discrimination code reads: "Scouting is a worldwide, multicultural movement. We welcome people to membership regardless of gender, race, culture, religious belief, sexual orientation or economic circumstances. Youth members are strongly influenced by the behaviour of adults. We need to be sensitive to the traditions and beliefs of all people and to avoid words or actions which "put down" anybody."

And so, in its attempt to include everybody and everything, Scouts Canada is effectively dead.

Budgets have run dry. Troop halls and old campsites sit vacant. Professional staff salaries are severed. Membership is mostly decimated. In the past, membership roles consistently exceeded 300,000. Around the peak in 1965, there were 320,000 Boy Scouts. Today, despite a one third population increase in Canada over four decades and a doubling of the demographic possibilities (with female members), Scouts Canada has dwindled to a puny 130,000 and it is rapidly declining.

Open to all, there is a certain liability that accompanies the mixture of sexes and sexual preferences at Scout Camp. It is no coincidence that Scouts Canada's costs for liability insurance against sexual molestation claims increased dramatically by 2002 when, lacking adequate finances, Scouts Canada canceled its sex abuse insurance, and with it many "high risk" activities. Without the insurance, a single pedophile could potentially annihilate Scouts Canada forever.

Esprit de corps has evaporated. Last year, wearing a uniform at official Scout events became optional. Scoutmasters were deprived of the authority to demand the wearing of uniforms. "It's time to stop bickering about the clothes we wear," said Ms. Bonita Brick, chair of the National Scouts Youth Committee that handed down the uniform decision. "Accept the reality of change."

It seems that change is not so attractive to the traditional core of Scouts Canada. "It is disheartening. Everything seems to be going down and down," laments veteran Scouter Bill Stauttener who manages Union Marsh Scout Camp which is set to go on the chopping block.

Eastern Ontario's Camp Apple Hill is expected to sell for just $30,000, a bargain considering that it is 300 acres. "It's very heartbreaking and very distressing," says three-decade Scout leader Pat Tugwood.

It may be a sad affair for some who've been around Canadian Scouting for a while, but I say good riddance to Scouts Canada. They ceased to serve any useful purpose the day they became all-inclusive, all-sensitive, and all-tolerant. The Scout Oath and Scout Law are obliterated in the land of the red maple leaf north of Parallel 49.

It is doubtful that this organization can be resuscitated. Political correctness, having infected whole institutions, does not easily reverse. But we Americans might well consider this malady and contain it at the border.

"In meeting the challenges of a multi-faith society which is increasingly gay-positive, the [Boy Scouts of America] might follow the lead of Scouts Canada," urges a writer at ReligiousTolerance.org. And thus the far Left attacks the Boy Scouts of America, relentlessly for the past two decades.

There are prices to be paid by the BSA for standing on traditional moral values, but none so severe as this eulogy of Scouts Canada. In America, United Way funding may be cut, cities and school districts may abandon the Scouts, courts may order the Scouts to leave public property. But so long as the Scout Oath and Law remain intact, the Boy Scouts of America can survive.

Goodbye, Scouts Canada. Political correctness is sure grand, eh? 

Hans Zeiger is president of the Scout Honor Coalition and a student at Hillsdale College.

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