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Letter to National – Luella

by on May 3, 2010

March 6, 2010

Chris Burton, Chief Commissioner,

Girl Guides of Canada

Dear Chris:

Many areas of implementation of Transformation in Ontario Guiding have become of great concern to me. I am finding it very difficult to find anything positive. I agree that Girl Guides of Canada, Ontario needed restructuring. With membership dropping the same amount of administration was not needed nor working the best. Districts needed to be restructured so that there were enough unit Guiders to give and receive ideas at District meetings. This sharing was a very valuable type of training in my experience. Also the cost of operating the levels was getting to be a burden.

The figures I have show a drop in membership of 30% in Ontario from 2006 to 2008. This must be a great concern to the National Council. Fewer members usually means higher membership fees and less cookie sales. Should there not be an evaluation of the Transformation implementation in Ontario?

2 ½ years have gone by since Transformation was implemented in Ontario. I find there are several negatives I would like to bring to your attention.

As chair of an Ontario Property Community, I have been treated with complete disrespect by both Provincial volunteers and staff.

The first summer camp staffed by Ontario Council was a complete disaster from a property management perspective. Following summer camp we found the sites left in a terrible mess both inside facilities and outside. There was vandalism in that locked filing cabinets were broken into and even moved from one building to another. These cabinets held the archives of the camp. The Provincial Commissioner was advised in length of the way the camp was left by the summer staff hired by Province for the summer 2008.

The provincial volunteer and staff have inflated the budgets sent in by the Community.

Unnecessary purchases were made. The Provincial Council was setting the camp up for failure. Camps in the Province were not on a level playing field. Buses were sent to some and not others. Busing really makes a difference when parents are planning for their daughter(s) summer camp experience. Thus the camps that had buses had more campers.

Transformation Concerns

Sixteen of the 33 camps in the Province are scheduled to close. The information used by the Provincial Council to make this decision is not being made available, the results of the Usage Study and financial reports for each camp are not forthcoming upon request.

Ontario Council is accountable to the GGC Board of Directors and the members of Guiding in Ontario. (Transformation document sent to Ontario membership February 28,2007) If this is the case, then why is it so difficult for the Province to share the items noted. The study was paid for by funds raised by the membership. Being a public – not for profit organization, I have always understood that the financial records were to be available upon request of the membership. If the decision to close the camps was a just and honest decision then why is it so difficult to share the documentation upon which the decision was made? It is very obvious that some of the camps left open have personal support on the Provincial Council.

We have been told that the National Council has been on board with the Ontario Council throughout this Transformation planning and implementation. Neither the Provincial Council nor the National Council put any funds into the purchases and upkeep of these properties and neither should they reap the harvest of their sale to make an even larger bureaucracy.

The summer camps planned for 2010 still have specific buses to specific camps from specific locations dictating what camp you should support.

Provincial staff visited the camp without advising the Camp Community that she was doing so. In my mind this is just rude. Why was a Provincial staff person even there? I understand that Guiding is volunteer led and staff managed. It is looking more and more as if Ontario is functioning with staff leading and volunteers managing. I have documentation in writing that this is actually happening with the Camp Property Extreme Specialty Community. I was referred by the Provincial volunteer to the Provincial staff person for answers to my questions.

An even bigger concern than the selling of camps is the lack of support for Unit Guiders.

In speaking to local Guiders, I’ve learned that the 2007 – 2008 Guiders resigned because of lack of support. Now the present Guiders are considering the same because there is a Guider conflict going on and no one is dealing with it. The ACL is just non-existent as far as these Guiders are concerned. Under this new system, conflicts become bigger and bigger before they can be dealt with. I’m not blaming the ACL in this. Her responsibilities are just far more than one person can handle in the geographical area she has.

For many years I have felt that the most important role in Guiding was the District Commissioner. I have not changed my mind. This position is the glue that holds it all together where it matters most – the Units and the girls. Even the Canadian Guider content is all about the girl. What happened to Guider support here? With no Guiders, there will be no girls.

I’ve also heard concerns about the handling of finances from around the region.

Deposits have been put in the wrong accounts and likewise expenses have been taken from wrong accounts. Guiders have also voiced concern that they are waiting 4-5 months for purchase cards.

Guiders from several communities have voiced concern to me that Guiders have been cancelled because of a flaw in the Police Record Check system put in place by the Provincial Council.

I recently learned first hand what the new “transformed” procedure was for Ontario Council Police Record Checks. This is a major concern to me to. My understanding is that Province has been advised by the RCMP that they cannot use a third party for Police Record Checks.

I have been recently advised that for my PRC, I must get a signature from a Guider with her PRC who has seen two pieces of my identification. I have no problem with this. However, it does not stop there. I then forward the form to Ontario Council staff along with copies of two pieces of ID and a Consent for Disclosure form which authorizes them to send this on to the Third Party which will actually do the check. How does Province get away with this? What about the Privacy Act and identity theft? This present system is an invasion of privacy. My understanding when PRC’s were required by Guiders was that this check is the personal property of the person being checked. I have no problem getting a PRC from the OPP and faxing a copy to the Ontario Provincial Office. I have been waiting over a week and sent the e-mail twice to the Provincial Office expressing my concerns about this. No Reply!

As a trainer, I have found it very difficult to navigate the system since Transformation.

In doing Safe Guide trainings I’ve learned that new Guiders aren’t being given the tools they need . They need a first aid kit and necessary forms as specified by the Safe Guide. They can’t wait for the training for this. This is just setting the Guider up for disaster. The reply from a new Guider was “ I just hope nothing happens”. She had no idea after doing the Safe Guide on line that she should have these forms and a first aid kit at her Unit meeting. It does happen that Units commence with all new Guiders. This shows one big problem not having a District Commissioner so Guiders have what is required for the safety of the girls and the Guiders.

Not sure why I am so lucky as to hear all this information and every day seems to bring more.

The latest Ontario Leadership and Development newsletter has formed geographical regions for Ontario. Not sure what this is about or who and why this was done.

In the 2009 – 2012 Girl Guides of Canada National Council Strategic Plan there is no mention for support of Guiders through learning opportunities. All the emphasis has been put on girl, girl, girl. How long will there be girls if the adults disappear for lack of support?

Now for the 100th Anniversary Rally Days planned in Ontario. Not that I feel much like celebrating. South Western and Mid-Western Ontario have been completely forgotten in this planning. Toronto is our only option. Maybe that is why there are only 7000+ registered and not 20 000! It is a long way from Windsor to Toronto. Does the Woodstock, London, Sarnia, Chatham, Windsor corridor not count?

After having written all of the above, I decided to look at the “Transformation” document sent to the Ontario membership February 2007. I think the Provincial Council needs to give every Unit Guider the opportunity to evaluate the transformed system, giving them first the goals set out on page 2 of the document.

What really jumped off the paper at me was on the “Ontario Council Functions and Accountability” page Ontario Council is accountable to the GGC Board of Directors and the members of Guiding in Ontario. I have already made reference to this above.

The goal of more paid staff has been achieved. How effective it is supporting Guiders I question. Minimal layers (flatter organization) has seen the organization go from a democracy to a dictatorship of the many by a very few. The membership has no voice through geographical representation.

As for freeing up more Guiders to return to Units, it has not happened in the communities I am in touch with.

Other goals listed in the “Transformation” document have been noted in the above concerns.

It is very difficult to keep the sisterhood of Guiding alive with no structure to do so.

With the Rally the many of us who are not Unit Guiders are only wanted there to work.

My hope is that every Unit Guider in Ontario will be given the opportunity to express her views as to whether or not the goals presented in the “Transformation “ document have been reached or not.


Luella Nash

One Comment
  1. Sharon Patrois (30 North Bay Brownies) permalink

    Great Letter, Luella. You have pointed out so many important issues that we have seen up here in Northern Ontario.Many Leaders have not made up their minds about returning in Sept. because of how we are being treated by Province and National who are there to guide us not to make us want to leave the Organization!!

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