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Letter to National – Camp Tewateno

by on May 10, 2010

Letter to National

We are an Extreme Specialty Camp Committee in the Province of Ontario, who have undergone a “transformation” in our way of work. As you know, Ontario Council has liquidated many assets across Ontario, emptied accounts of money mostly in trust for girls and taken control of every expenditure in regards to camp property, as well as other areas.

We were asked to hand over all monies in June of 2007 to comply with the Transformation agenda.  We complied with this request only partially.  We operated an account which was funded by the camp rental income.  This account also paid for the maintenance of the camp. This money was sent to Province. We also maintained several accounts dedicated to our Centennial Project of building a lodge in 2010. We did not turn over to the Province funds that we had been accumulating over twelve years for this purpose.  We were acting as the stewards of the funds specifically reserved for a lodge at Camp Tewateno.  Since 2007 we have become aware of camps who turned over funds in good faith that they would still have access to their funds when needed.  That good faith was broken by Ontario Council and the money was not accessible to them.   We communicated with the Province on two occasions (March 31 and April 20, 2009) asking for a consultation in this regard, and our letters were not answered.

On May 23, 2009 we were asked to meet with the Provincial Commissioner, Marnie Cumming, and her Camp Advisor, Carla Lyon, to discuss our camp. We came to the meeting with documents and the history of how we have built our camp without any support from Province and with the hands of Guiders and girls in the community.  We attempted to explain our commitment that we would build our lodge for the Centennial of Guiding in 2010.   If was obvious to us that the Provincial representatives were only looking at the “bottom line” – that we had a quarter of a million dollars to “hand over” by June 30, 2009.  We felt we had not been met in good faith, but that the Province had an overriding agenda to “get the money”.  The girls who are meant to be the focus of Girl Guides of Canada are lost in their single-mindedness.

While they said that they were “stewards of the monies”, our belief is that, in fact, we are the stewards, as the monies that were raised were designated for the “building of the camp lodge”.  We have proven our good stewardship by the achievements we have accomplished so far, and by the good care we have taken of the funds.

We asked to be able to speak to Ontario Council about our camp at an upcoming meeting on June 28th and this was denied.  The reduced  Ontario Council members do not include our having Areas Commissioners at the table, and we wonder who is speaking for our interests at the grass roots.  No members of Ontario Council have even set foot at our camp, and we were denied the consultants report who visited all Provincial camps and submitted a report to Province.  We were told that we could not see the report because Ontario Council has not yet approved it although it was received almost a year ago.  Again it shows our lack of confidence in Province.  Where is the openness of a non-profit organization?

We have therefore come to the conclusion that they are not willing to work with us in an open and transparent manner.   They asked us to work collaboratively and yet our work towards our goal of a lodge is not given any credence, when in fact it is the point where all our energy is focused.  The money is a means to help us reach the goal.   In the eyes of the Province, only the money matters.

We have a grievous lack of confidence in the Provincial Team as “stewards” of the property that our girls and guiders will enjoy into the future.

We had no other recourse but to come to National  as the owners of the camp property, which we still believe is in trust for the girls.  Our Committee, in excess of twenty dedicated people, have worked selflessly and tirelessly since 1994 towards fulfilling the proposal passed in principal when Province approved our purchase.  The proposal was that we would service the property, build campsites, then finally build a lodge.  We are on the brink of the last stage and we have been forced to obtain legal counsel to help us in our determination to fulfill this promise to the girls and guiders.   Our community is very involved in the camp development. We have retired police officers, teachers, firemen, contractors,  and local schools (involved in Coop classes) who are committed to seeing this plan come to fruition.

Our concerns are as follows:

  1. Province is not acknowledging our work over the last 15 years in developing this site from vacant land to one that is actually a heritage site, with teepees, covered wagons, military site, and longhouses, to help girls understand our heritage. While it was accepted “in principle” —We know that with the building of our last part of the plan, the lodge (to mark 100 years of Guiding in Ontario),  we will be able to sustain the camp with outside agencies and other supports (eg. School boards). With the absence of an Area Commissioner we need to be able to bring the plan to the council so they can understand our plans, and decide how to proceed. They are not allowing us this opportunity.
  2. Our Lawyer recommended that we meet with National Council to discuss the possibility of dealing directly with them as we have lost confidence in working with Ontario Council. From our understanding it is National that ultimately owns property rights to our camp.
  3. Province’s “stewardship” of our property is under question. After local girls, guiders, and families invested over $800K, without a penny from Province,  their only focus is that a quarter of a million dollars will to be turned over to them without a blink of an eye. We don’t think so. We, too, are stewards of the monies that people have committed to the building of the lodge. It would be irresponsible of us to not hold these monies for the purpose of which they were intended.  The alternative is to return it to those individuals, and to find an alternate way to improve the camp for the girls
  4. Because 2010 is the 100th Anniversary of Guiding in Canada, we would like to explore the possibility of becoming a World Centre in North America. We feel that our camp has a multitude of opportunities of experiences for girls when they visit the camp (Wye Marsh, St. Marie Among The Hurons, Splashworld, Canoeing, Kayaking, etc., proximity to Toronto, Niagara Falls, USA).   We would like your input on this possibility.

There are many embattled Guiders in Ontario who feel that the Promise and Law which we lived by and pledged so often is now dead.  Our local supporters include a former Ontario Provincial Commissioner, a former National President (who is now our Camp Chaplain), and many other women who worked at the National and Provincial Council levels.   Many of our supporters have asked us to expose the Province’s lack of connectedness to the grass roots of Guiding and their destruction of ‘the sisterhood’ of Girl Guides by cutting off long-standing communication sources via District or Division meetings and events.  There is a powder keg awaiting to explode around Ontario and our Camp Tewateno issue might be the wick that lights it.  This is not our wish.  Our wish is only to finish the plan we started in 1994.  Our goal was set then and many many steps have been taken and much hard work done on our part.

We would hope that we will be able to meet as soon as possible as time is of the essence.  We will not be turning over the money by Province’s deadline of June 30th on our lawyer’s recommendation.  We would like to avoid messy litigation costs or  nasty media frenzy if this issue is not resolved.

Yours in “Continued” Guiding in Ontario

Camp Tewateno Committee

June 22, 2009

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