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Barrie Advance, June 29

by on June 30, 2010

Guide fight attracts supporters

Laurie Watt photo

BARRIE – Barrie is becoming the centre of an Ontario Girl Guide storm.

Fighting to keep control of Camp Tewateno in Midhurst, Sylvia Dufresne and Denise Calvert have created a group, On My Honour, which aims to unite leaders demanding answers about their camps.

Concerned women from as far away as Chatham and North Bay came to Barrie Sunday to discuss how to save their camps.

“We’d like to join the Girl Guides of Manitoba to get the hell out of Ontario. We’ll join the Girl Scouts of America just to get out from under Ontario’s umbrella,” said Dufresne, the chairperson of the local camp committee, who faces her appointment being pulled if she doesn’t comply with provincial orders to immediately hand over almost $250,000 raised for a lodge at the camp.

Ontario Girl Guides’ provincial commissioner Marnie Cumming also told them to shut down the camp website, here, which encourages groups to book the 100-acre Springwater camp.

“We’re ignoring her. We’re all being fired June 30,” said Dufresne, adding five longtime volunteers who received Ontario Volunteer Awards last week are among those about to be booted. “They’re wonderful women who have given decades.”

The women received emails Sunday and Monday from Cumming reiterating their need to comply.

They are seeking legal counsel.

And they have the support of people like Owen Sound’s Sandi Ramsay – a Brownie leader for 35 years. She said the camp issue is symptomatic of a new top-down regime.

“There’s them at the top, and there’s us at the bottom,” Ramsay said. “We’re being told what to do.”

Referred to  as transformation, Ontario Guides scrapped three layers of local and regional councils.

Their new way of doing business also centralized bookkeeping to give unit leaders more time to focus on programming, Cumming explained in an interview earlier this month.

“We flattened our organization and eliminated a number of administrative levels. One of the other components was that we have provincewide management of all our properties,” said Cumming.

“We’re trying to be thrifty with our staff and ensure we can meet our obligation as an organization. Our volunteers’ time can then be spent with Brownies on a Tuesday night.”

Cumming could not be reached for comment Monday.

Mary Beth Can Trigt from Owen Sound, however said Cumming hasn’t adequately explained the 16 camp closures announced last November – and she supports Dufresne’s efforts to keep Tewateno open. Her camp, Aneesh, was closed Dec. 31.

“We’re still fighting. We haven’t given up hope yet,” she said, adding she has been distributing information about On My Honour at various events she’s been attending.

“There’s no mechanism to let us talk to teach other,” Trigt said. “I do really resent our camp being closed for no good reason. I’m a chartered accountant, and there’s no business sense in selling Camp Aneesh. We were operating in the black until the province took over.

“No discussion, no nothing, just a unilateral declaration (the camp would close.)”

from Barrie Advance June 29, 2010

One Comment
  1. One of the glories about Guiding used to be that girls and women could find volunteer roles in a variety of programming areas. Not every adult member of Guiding wants to solely focus her time on Brownie programming, for example, because perhaps, just maybe, her skills lay in the promotion and development of amazing camps and opportunities for these girls outside of the weekly meeting.

    The organization used to be a web of opportunities; Cummings’ statement “Our volunteers’ time can then be spent with Brownies on a Tuesday night” shows just how this organization is forcing the women who’ve been doing this for years, those with the experience and the passion, out. And THAT is why this organization is slipping dangerously close to destruction.

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