Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

2nd Session, 37th Parliament,
Volume 140, Issue 64

Monday, June 9, 2003
The Honourable Dan Hays, Speaker

Scouts Canada

Private Bill to Amend Act of Incorporation—Second Reading

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Di Nino, seconded by the Honourable Senator Jaffer, for the second reading of Bill S-19, respecting Scouts Canada.—(Honourable Senator Jaffer).

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, it is my honour and pleasure to speak today to Bill S-19, respecting Scouts Canada, as it deals with an organization that is close to my heart.

When most people think of scouting, the image they have in their minds likely consists of a group of young men in green or beige uniforms camping in the woods, learning survival skills and, perhaps, singing campfire songs. However, I believe that scouting today is much more than this. The lessons it teaches young people go well beyond wilderness survival skills; there are much deeper life lessons that it teaches as well.

Scouting helps young people to learn to have confidence in themselves and in their abilities. It gives them a profound sense of responsibility to themselves, others and their environment. It teaches self-reliance that is valuable not only in the wilderness but in other situations as well.

Scouting helps youth to form strong relationships with others and build lasting friendships. It teaches them to become leaders and to play a vital role in the society in which we live. These are things that cannot always be learned in conventional schools and can only be acquired by the type of experience scouting offers.

As it says in the Scout Handbook, a scout is a member of the great youth movement started by Lord Robert Baden-Powell. Baden-Powell thought it would be a good idea to teach boys some of the skills of scouting. Scouts should be strong, courageous, alert, able to read the smallest signs of nature and the tracks of animals, able to survive in the wilderness, always ready and willing to help each other, and able to decide what to do and when to do it.

Lord Baden-Powell believed scouting affected a young person’s education, appreciation of religion and a greater promotion of peace. Lord Baden-Powell, founder of the scout movement, set out a number of reasons why scouting was an important educational experience. He stated that the secret of sound education is to get each pupil to learn for himself instead of instructing him by driving knowledge into him by a stereotyped system.

Regarding appreciation for religion, Lord Baden-Powell said, “Though we hold no brief to any one form of belief over another, we see a way of putting the boys in touch with their objective, which is to do their duty to God, through doing their duty to their neighbour, in helping others in doing their daily good turns and rescuing those in danger. Self-discipline, unselfishness, chivalry become acquired and quickly form part of their character. These attributes of character, coupled with the right study of nature, must of necessity help to bring the young soul in closer touch to spiritually with God.”

He also spoke of the greater promotion of peace. Lord Baden- Powell went on to say, “Before you abolish armaments, before you can make treaty promises, before you build palaces for peace delegates to sit in, the first stop of all is to train the rising generations in every nation to be guided in all things by an absolute sense of justice. When men have it as an instinct in their conduct of all affairs of life to look to the question impartially from both sides before becoming partisans of one, then if a crisis arises between two nations, they will naturally be more ready to recognize the justice of the cause and to adopt a peaceful solution, which is impossible so long as their minds are accustomed to run to war as the only resource.”

Lord Baden-Powell goes on to say, “In the scouting movement, we have it in our power to do a great thing by introducing practical training in justice and fair play, both through games and practise in the field, and through arbitrations, codes of honour, trials and debates in the club room.”

Honourable senators, scouting helps young people to achieve their goals to the best of their ability. In 1974, the advantages of the scouting experience were broadened significantly when young girls were, for the first time, included in the organization’s mandate. This change, which is reflected in the legislation before us today, is of tremendous significance and personal importance to me because I believe that all young girls should reap the benefits of a scouting experience. I know how much my own experience with scouting has enriched my life and how the lessons I learned have stayed with me to this day.

As Senator Di Nino has already said, the informal lessons that Scouts Canada teaches us today are in line with the original and ongoing mission of the organization, as well as with the vision of its founder Lord Baden-Powell.

Passage of this bill will update the existing statutes that govern the scouting movement in Canada. Not only will the bill change the name of the organization from Boy Scouts of Canada to Scouts Canada, but it will also to reflect the change in its mandate to include young girls.

Honourable senators, scouting is in my blood. My mother grew up knowing Lady Baden-Powell in Kenya. As a guide, she went on to become a guide leader. To this day, she is associated with the guiding movement. I was a Brownie, a Girl Guide, a Queen’s Guide and then a 2nd Queen’s Guide in Uganda. I was also a Girl Scout in the U.S. In Canada, I was a Ranger leader and a Commissioner of Guiding for a number years. With my husband, I was a Beaver and a Venturer leader. In the 1980s, my husband, Nuralla, and I started a co-ed group of Venturers, one of the few in the country, while I was still a Girl Guide Commissioner. We started the co-ed Venturers group because we believed this was a way to bring girls and boys together to work on joint projects and, most important, to learn to relate to and challenge each other.

We felt that involvement in the scouting program would give girls the opportunity to gain confidence and help them in their careers. We took the boys and girls to many camps. The conversations around the campfires and afterwards were interesting and, at times, challenging. We learned to trust them and, as time went on, they were working together cooking meals, climbing hills, going on long hikes and helping each other to achieve their goals.

We took our co-ed group to the World Jamboree in Kananaskis, Alberta. When the girls returned from the jamboree, they were confident knowing that they could do all the outdoor activities just as well as the boys could do them.

The greatest compliment my husband and I received recently was from a female member of our co-ed group, a Venturer, who told us that she was doing well in her work and was able to compete because, as a Venturer, she learned certain skills. She told us that being a Venturer taught her that she was as good as any boy, and that helped alleviate any fear she had.

As a previous Girl Guide Commissioner, I believe that the Girl Guide movement is important for girls’ growth. I also believe that the co-ed group helps to build confidence in young people.

Lord Baden-Powell often said that when he spoke of scouting, he included, in his comments, guiding also.

I would thank Senator Di Nino for introducing Bill S-19.

Lady Baden-Powell said in her autobiography: “Both associations have set up working parties to discuss how to bring the two movements up to date to meet the needs of a more sophisticated rising generation. I was anxious that both movements should keep to my husband’s constant stipulation that scouting and guiding should be simple and that it should be fun. Provided these qualities were retained and provided that basic principles of scouting and guiding were not altered, I saw no harm in changes. If the movement is to live up to its name, it must move with the times. I know I am old but I should never oppose changes simply because it is change particularly if the times demand a new look.”

Honourable senators, I support this bill because it will help to sculpt the future of scouting for young people and it will bring the law into accord with the realities of scouting at the present.

I believe that all honourable senators can support this bill, and I urge all senators to go one step further and support the Canadian Scouting Movement in their own regions to ensure that our young people are given the opportunity to participate in the unique experience that scouting offers.

I thank honourable senators for their attention.

Motion agreed to and bill read second time.