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News Article – Guides not happy campers – 20 June 2010

by on June 20, 2010

Guides not happy campers

Posted By GORD YOUNG The Nugget

BONFIELD ā€” In a bold act of defiance against their national organization, local Girl Guides opened the gates of Camp Caritou to the public Saturday.

Despite strict orders that the site not be used, the group hosted an open house aimed at promoting the camp and raising donations to help fund a legal battle to prevent the national organization from selling the facility.

“We want to keep using the camp . . . it belongs to us,” said Lori Butterfield, a member of the committee of local guiders fighting to save the 42-acre parcel, nestled on the shore of Lake Nosbonsing.

Girl Guides Canada announced in November nearly half its Ontario camps are to close including Caritou, Ashwene in New Liskeard, Butler Lake in Ramore and Polly Lake in Nipigon.

The group’s provincial commissioner said operating more than 30 such facilities has run the organization into a $1.37-million deficit. And the commissioner warned in a letter to guide leaders that other services and supports may be discontinued if the organization were to continue pouring money into the camp properties.

But local members argue Caritou has been operated and maintained by volunteers for the past 50 years, since its purchase for approximately $6,000 by the Algonquin division. The money was raised over five years through bake sales, teas, donations and the like.

Linda Rioux, a guide leader who joined as an adult in the 1980s, said she’s worried the local movement will fall apart if Camp Caritou is sold.

“It’s the glue that holds us together,” she said.

Local guiders say the camp is self-sufficient and isn’t subsidized at the provincial or national levels. And members, many who have devoted decades to the Girl Guide movement, say the organization has lost sight of its roots and has simply become another business.

They say their objections to the sale have essentially been ignored by the provincial and national councils. And the group intends to put up a legal fight.

They say ownership of the property was transferred over to the national organization in trust of the Algonquin division for $2 several years ago for insurance purposes and that the larger organization has no right to sell the land.

But, according to the local group, Girl Guides Canada maintains is can sell the property because the Algonquin division was swallowed up during a restructuring of the organization several years ago.

The local guiders say the restructuring move also saw an estimated $50,000 raised locally transferred into larger pool of cash earmarked for the overall organization. They say the cash is now distributed based on an application process, which is the reason why they have started a legal fund.

“You wouldn’t believe the heartbreak that’s out there,” said long-time member Thelma Blackburn, referring to the discontent with the organization and its decisions in recent years.

Blackburn is also a member of On My Honour, a province-wde group of guiders concerned about the state of the organization.

Mary Standen, who joined the Girl Guides in 1942, said the organization has always been there for her. Standen, who moved around a lot in her lifetime, said she always found friendship through Girl Guides no matter where she landed.

She said she doesn’t want to see the camp close because it’s an affordable summer activity for many children.

  1. Sharon Patrois permalink

    Thanks Mary for your support and encouragement. The same decline in participation of events and trainings is also falling in the North Bay area. Our Girl Guide Camp Caritou is on the “chopping block” and we are not going to give up the fight for it. I have been camping there with Brownies for 32 yrs and it breaks my heart to see Province and National wanting to sell it to help clear their debt!! The outcome of the camp will have a great affect on adult membership up here!!! Who loses? The girls!!! and the confidence held by the public for the organization as a wonderful place for all girls!

  2. Mary Keddy permalink

    Amen to that. I am the contact person for Camp KIenuka on the shores of Lake Erie. I am afraid if the ‘powers that be” namely Provincial and National councils continue to rule Girl Guides of Canada the way they have over recent years there will be more than camps closed. Although my main concern is with Camp Kienuka I sit back and watch as registration declines, units are closed, communication is lost, trainings and events are cancelled due to lack registrations and Guiders are quitting. Good luck to the group “On My Honour”.

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