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The Speech We Would Have Presented

by on June 6, 2010

Address to National Council – June 5, 2010

THE SPEECH WE WOULD HAVE PRESENTED IF WE HAD BEEN GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY”

We are sorry to report that the National Board of Directors for Girl Guides of Canada did not respond to the grassroots Guiders’ pleas in Ontario by allowing us to speak at the Annual General Meeting today.  They are not yet aware of how precarious the future of Guiding is in the hands of the autocratic leadership in the Province of Ontario.

Introduction:

In our 100th Anniversary of Guiding we have celebrated with thousands of happy girl faces. We see them growing their skills in life at local, regional, national, and international levels. We find it hard to believe that this once vibrant organization would ever succumb to complacency and disillusionment among its Guiders.  But that is what has happened in Ontario since the launching of Transformation in 2007.  One third of the membership has slowly accepted the change, and is supportive.  One third is so new they don’t know what they’re missing but have grave concerns and are hesitant to speak up.  One third has either thrown up their hands in despair and left the organization, or is imploring Guiding’s leadership to hear their distressed voices.  We are a part of this group.

The spark that ignited the flame was the closing of 16 camps in Ontario, without consultation. This was, however, just a symptom of a larger problem.  A critical number of Guiders have not accepted the changes and strongly believe that this move to change structure, efficiency and communication has actually resulted in reduced efficiencies and communication. We have become a two-tiered organization across Canada.  Ontario has one structure; the rest of the country has another.  How is this fair to the Guiders in Ontario?

Consequently, we implore National Council to act on the following recommendations:

  • Place an immediate moratorium on the sale of camp properties in Ontario and launch a consultation with the grassroots Guiders, including those who are shepherding these safe havens for girls – the Camp Committees.
  • Too much changed too quickly. We recommend that National re-align the Ontario structure so that it is in line with other provinces across Canada.  Re-institute local levels or “families of Guiding” so that Guiders may re-kindle what brought them into the fold in the first place – a sense of belonging, timely local training, and sisterhood. A happy Guider makes happy girls.  These community groupings should be named, as names give us an identity.
  • Establish a bank account (similar to those for units) for each Community, with a treasurer and a nominal budget, so that Communities can run their own local events, (e.g. program days, fun days, community camps, trainings.)  Communities could even sell cookies to increase revenue.  This would take a large load off the paid staff at Province, as well as speeding up communication between organizers and participants.
  • Restore a democratic process through which regular checking in and feedback is the required norm.  Open communication and sharing of financial matters helps everyone see the bigger picture and not feel as though things are being “done” to them.
  • Institute an arm’s length Ombudsman or appeals process for provinces to utilize when conflicts arise that cannot be resolved at the local level, and when people lose trust in their leaders.  We should see conflicts as opportunities for on-going change and adjustments.
  • Grassroots Guiders want and need representation and voices at the provincial table who will communicate their diverse demographic and cultural needs. This is a basic right and should be honoured.
  • We recommend that National uphold the true spirit of diversity and recognize the unique communities in the province of Ontario.  A one-size fits all approach will not work for isolated locations either by distance or online communication.  Closing camps in isolated areas only amplifies this. All Guiders should have access to information and resources in a form suitable for them.
  • We urge Ontario Council to return to mailing the Ontario Newsletter. Many Guiders do not have computers, many have only dial-up internet, most will not use the ink and paper necessary to print out information.   Many are not skilled in computer use.  We have had many voices calling for this communication form to be returned.
  • Recognize and respect the Guiders who have gone before us.  They have blazed a trail of conviction, fortitude, sensitivity and sisterhood while keeping their eyes on the needs of the girls.  They should not be ‘swept clean’ from this organization, as they are the mortar that has kept us together over time.  We need them now, more than ever, to help to continue to sustain this wonderful organization, an organization of which we are proud to be a member.  We need to give each and every Guider the respect they deserve.  We recommend that you reconnect the Trefoil Guilds, Local Specialty Communities, and Trainers with the Unit Guiders so that they can bridge and mentor our new leaders.  We can’t afford to lose these valuable human resources.

In conclusion, we believe that if our voices are truly heard and acted upon, the trust can be re-built.   We have been disregarded, dismissed and repressed for too long.

In good faith, we invite members of Provincial Council to meet with the many grassroots voices of Guiding on June 27 in Barrie, Ontario (location to be announced) to develop a plan that will ultimately restore trust and morph into the best transformation yet!  Alternatively, we urge National Council to appoint a professional non-biased mediator to work with Ontario Council and the core directors of On My Honour, to implement the above changes.

To summarize –   ……If you dismiss our voices you dismiss our future…….

‘ON MY HONOUR’  Guiders, Parents, Grandparents and Girls

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8 Comments
  1. Margaret permalink

    This has brought a lump to my throat and a tear to my eyes….I am so glad to hear that I am not alone in these thoughts. I have tried to tell the community leader in my community that I am not an on-line person, therefore am basically out of the loop in Guiding. I have been a leader for over 30 years, a trainer for 25 years and because I was unable to go on-line to send in forms I have now been told I was removed as a trainer until such time as I go on-line and submit the forms. I support this movement to return to grass roots 100%. To those who composed the above bravo bravisimo….very well done.

  2. Elizabeth Fraser permalink

    Thanks to Ella Schmidt for linking many of us to the “On My Honour” speech, which I was so glad to see, and sadly, not surprised to learn that the representatives at the Ontario AGM were not permitted to read it-this is yet another sign of our decline as a once proud organization whose Mission Statement challenged us: as a unity of “Guiding” women empowering other women to empower our youngest sisters in Guiding-lest we forget!! I have loved all of my summer Guide Camping, and at many locations since the early “90’s. In recent years, the first Brownies I mentored at camp, along with many others since then, have begun to be the camp guiders themselves-just as we in Ontario seem to be totally without the bright “paddles” in our great songs to steer and survive with-THEY DESERVE US TO DO BETTER!!! If we sing our songs and read our camp manuals, the great guiding spirit is all there to lead us- I urge everyone to check p. 38 in our “Blue” campfire and song manual for a great quote from Lady Baden Powell, challenging all guides to “polish each other’s metal” in an ongoing, face to face, “gradual grinding process” until we all shine (like golden friends) together-! Let’s get a working, face to face, many hands on, structure which uses email, “skype”, twitter, but also ALL of our time honoured CAMP SKILLS in an intelligent, EMPOWERING WAY. Our youngest Sparks and Brownies EXPECT THE VERY BEST FROM US!!

  3. Bonnie Patenaude permalink

    I have been involved in Guiding for 34 years and this is what I have always thought we had in Guiding: openness, trust, honour, respect. Your letter brought tears to my eyes as I see this wonderful organization going down the tubes because of power plays made at the National level by paid staff and not the grass root volunteers that are the backbone of this organization. I also salute all of you ” on my honour ” committee members. God bless you for taking up this fight.

  4. Lori permalink

    I think that guiding is trying too hard to compete with video games and much Music. It is fine to put some current stuff in the program but the majority of the basics have been replaced with fluff as my girls would say. Maybe there is too much fear of declining numbers . Lets go back to leading a quality program for girls who want it. There are more opportunities for girls now and we can’t expect to have the same numbers as when there were no alternatives. That doesnt mean that we have to try to please everyone. This is diluting the program so that even the ones who traditionally were faithful participants and not finding fulfillment in the new programs. Transformation has resulted in the loss of many leaders so the new ones with little or no training do not realize what traditional guiding is.

  5. Darcy Wyllie permalink

    I am a Guider from Victoria, British Columbia. I would like to aplaud all involved in this speech and this group. I fully agree that there are now too many decisions been made for us instead of with us. I have been involved in Guiding for over 30 years and as of late becoming very dissolusioned about a great many things and the ways of Guiding that have gone by the wayside.
    Keep up your fight and keep your voices heard.

  6. Wow !!!! That is a wonderful presentation. You Gals are doing a great Job and Thank you for helping us get back to Guiding. I do hope soon to attend your meetings.
    claire

  7. Debbie McDonnell permalink

    Excellant speech! Covering what everyone has been feeling since this transformation, but unable to get through to Province and National Councils. I am very glad this collective voice has been established and WE WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE. We need to fight for our Guiding rights and get it back into line where it was working very well before all the change.
    After recently organizing an event for many girls & their Guiders in our Community (750) I was also set-back as to the lack of knowledge for camping skills and safety. We need to reinstate a camping level system to train our leaders and girls the safety and skills they need to enjoy a happy camp. The “Safe Guide” is NOT covering the skills needed.

  8. Elaine Robb permalink

    Amen, I agree fully and would still take this speech forward, wether it be mailed and/or emailed to the powers that be, or delivered by the media. I truly miss the involvement I have had in Guding over the past 26 years, still a member of Trefoil, but now we are not included. I have seen Guiding nearly disappear in my community. Recently at a “100th Celebration Camp”, was disappointed that the new Guiders did not know of any of the traditions, ie camp hats (decorated with pins, treasurers, etc), in most cases, no hats at all. Girls not knowing how to camp – cooking, campfire songs, making camp gadgets, and showing little respect for others. This speech is long overdue. Salute to those who composed it.

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