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News Article: Analyzing the Guiding factors — Camp Tewateno re-opens under cloud of legal action

by on September 27, 2011
Analyzing the Guiding factors —
Camp Tewateno re-opens under cloud of legal action

By Marg. Bruineman – Barrie Examiner
Updated 27 Sept 2011
A lone, striking voice greets visitors before the clutch of Pathfinders finishing breakfast duties comes into view.

The absolute silence Ashley Moore’s touching rendition of On My Own commands is broken by applause on her final note.

“We’ve been camping here for years,” says Theresa Harper, leader of the 6th Barrie Pathfinders, camping with the 1st Grenfel group.

Typically, the girls would do their community service hours preparing Camp Tewateno for use in the spring, thinning out the trails and clearing the camping sites. But that wasn’t an option this year because of a protracted disagreement between the local development committee and the Girl Guides of Canada.

So, the trails are a little overgrown.

The Georgian site this group occupies consists of a large breakfast gazebo with a nearby storage shed containing pretty well all the equipment necessary for camping.

A short hike down the trail leads to a series of camping platforms, some of them covered. There, they’ve pitched tents where the girls spent Friday and Saturday night.

Containing five large military garrisons, the site offers a great introduction to camping and helps to prepare the girls for back country trips, Harper says.

“This is my first time here,” says Maralee Stevens, a giggling 13-year-old. “It’s cold.”

“It was OK,” adds camping veteran Lindsay Parker, noting it didn’t compare to her first visit when they experienced problems with the tents and got soaked.

For many of these girls, who are in grades 7, 8 and 9, it’s their first camping experience.

And for everyone, it’s the first time in a year anyone has been able to use Camp Tewateno.

The Girl Guides of Canada invested $63,500 in a variety of upgrades across the 100-acre property on Gill Road on the outskirts of Midhurst to bring

it back up to code. It was re-opened this past weekend for the girls’ use.

But the disagreement between the two groups rages on, recently elevated to a formal legal battle.


At the intersection of Spirit Lane and Heritage Way, just beyond the entrance gate, lies the Bears’ Den, formerly a school portable, now a multi-purpose administration centre. It needed an exhaust fan above the electric stove.

And deficiencies were identified with the ramp access to the building.

The emergency lighting and smoke detectors also weren’t working.

Problems were also identified with Gord’s Place — the nearby maintenance building — along with buildings on five of six of the camping sites as well as the suspension bridge.

“A lot of the work was bringing the buildings, the site, up to code,” says Shari Steffler, the deputy commissioner of the Ontario council of the Girl Guides of Canada.

The camp is loaded with unique features and themed sites on a spoke-and-wheel design that easily directs users back to base, even when trodding through the camp’s trails. Indications of hard work and dedication by its creators are everywhere.

But those creators, a clutch of Barrie-area residents who toiled for years to buy the site and raise money for a lodge, are banned. They’ve been kicked out of the Guiding organization and they are being sued over approximately $250,000 which they refuse to turn over to the organization.

The Guiding organization sees the Barrie-area development committee as sort of rogue group. With all the work its membership of about 18 people did on the property, they never sought approval from the national and provincial Guiding organization, a requirement for expenditures of more than $10,000, accuse Guide officials.

And they blame the local group for not meeting required codes and sometimes not seeking municipal approval in some of their projects, which led to the one-year closure and the expense to fix some of the property’s shortcomings.

“The (Springwater Township) inspector issued a report stating that Girl Guides of Canada must either demolish all structures that have been built without a building permit or do the necessary work to bring them into compliance,” states a Girl Guides of Canada fact sheet about the property.

The shortcomings on the property are now all resolved, allowing Guide groups from all around to use it again.

But any resolution between the local group and the Guide organization seems a ways off.

The local group, dubbed On My Honour, points to a four-year-old reconstruction of the Ontario council called ‘Transformation’ as the arbiter of all the problems. They say this organizational change pretty well stripped the local groups of decision-making powers and centralized control of the organization, its property and its money.

The current organization, says Sylvia Dufresne, who first started fundraising to buy the property 20 years go and has spent much of that time since helping to develop it with the local committee, is a “cellophane impression of what it was, not what Baden Powell started.

“They have cut out the grassroots in every way.”

Dufresne points at the closure and subsequent sale of 15 of the Guides’ 32 Ontario properties as an indication of what could happen when local groups lose control. So, the Barrie group decided not to forfeit about $250,000 they say they raised, to the provincial organization.

“We’re just trying to keep up the faith people have put in us,” says Dufresne, figuring that the Barrie community has given close to $1 million toward Camp Tewateno. That doesn’t include all volunteer labour used to cut trails and develop the sites. “We have to honour what we said we would do.”

She wants assurances that the money will be used as intended when it was raised — to build a lodge on the property.


Deputy Commissioner Steffler came from her Whitby home in her volunteer capacity on Saturday to greet the first Guides to put Camp Tewateno to use again, and to proudly show off this asset, insisting this was never a property the organization ever considered selling.

Taking a peek into a covered wagon equipped with bunkbeds on the pioneer site, she marvels at the work and the planning that clearly has gone into the camp since it was developed 17 years ago.

But, she added, the 2007 ‘Transformation’ calls for all local groups to surrender their accounts to the central organization. The Barrie-area group is the lone holdout. The money belongs in the hands of the central organization to do with as it sees fit, she insists.

“It is the Girl Guides of Canada money … to determine where it’s going,” she says.

“All the money came from different places” and went into one big pot, since ‘Transformation’. “And then we look at what is needed … there are all sorts of programs.”


The local group begs to differ, supported by those who ‘bought logs’ and kicked in money.

“I would say I’m actually a major sponsor in this,” says Barrie businessman Allan Zaba, who figures his family and his company have pitched in approximately $25,000 to the cause. “I would like to see the money used for the purpose it was meant, to build a new lodge.”

He argues if the money isn’t used for building a lodge on Camp Tewateno, he wants it re-directed to another charity. And, he adds, as a lifelong Kiwanis member, officials of the two local Kiwanis clubs that each pitched in money are taking the same position.

Zaba’s insistence that the directed intent of the money can be only used for that purpose is a viewpoint the local organizers say has traction.

In pre-legal efforts to resolve the issue, Dufresne requested clarification from the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee, charitable property program.

“The courts have recognized that funds collected pursuant to a fundraising campaign for a specific purpose or project must be used for the specific purpose for which the funds were raised,” writes Nick Hedley, the program’s legal counsel.

Dufresne’s group has been meeting to determine how to respond to the lawsuit. Whatever their approach, she remains adamant that the money raised in Barrie won’t be thrown into a large Guide pot. If it can’t be used for the Gill Road camp, then those who pitched in money should have the option of redirecting that money to another charity, she declares.

“We reconcile that we have lost that beautiful camp,” she says. “They say it will not be sold, but I don’t believe it.”


Camp Tewateno

• The Girl Guide Camp on Gill Road outside Midhurst was opened on 100 acres in 1994. It contains six themed sites along, with areas for regular tent camping.

• The pioneer site contains five covered wagons containing bunkbeds forming a semi-circle around the camp fire.

• The Georgian site is dedicated to fallen Canadian soldiers. Each of the six military garrisons is named after a major Canadian battle site.

• The Adirondack site contains five three-sided huts that each sleep three.

• The Six Nations site contains five full-sized teepees, with cots for seven.

• The prospector site has five old-fashioned prospector cabins for four.

• The Wendake site has three B.C. red cedar longhouses, two sleep 10 and the third five.


The Lawsuit

Eighteen Barrie-area residents are named in the lawsuit issued by the Girl Guides of Canada demanding accounting of money raised and an order to trace money the group raised in the name of Guiding.

The statement of claim filed with the courts accuses the local group of refusing to account for the money they raised and that they have wrongfully retained possession and control over the money.

The local group challenges that it is rightfully holding the money until it receives assurances from the Girl Guides of Canada that the money will stay in the community and be used to build a lodge at Camp Tewateno.

The statement of claim also accuses Sylvia Dufresne of misusing the funds by transferring the funds to other accounts, an allegation she denies.

  1. Anonymous permalink

    I think it is absolutely shameful what “Council” is doing to the girl’s camps. I don’t think Lord and Lady Baden-Powell intended the movement to go this way. I would also like to know what gives “Council” the right to sell off some of these camps that were funded, built and maintained by money DONATED by local people and businesses.

  2. Deb permalink

    It is shameful and I am appauled at what GGC Ontario Council are doing! Although our camp in my area is still active, the buildings are in dire need of upkeep and this doesn’t seem to be happening. Regular maintenance is a key responsibility of the longivity of our camps – and since transformation, our camp is losing face.
    Had we not had this dreaded “transformation” Guiding would be prosphering and not dying as it is now. Girls everywhere in Ontario would be enjoying the outdoors and first time camping experiences if not once, but several times in the year. Now it is next to impossible for them to go to camp.
    My hat’s off to the On My Honour Guiders that are enduring this legal battle. You Go Girls!!

  3. Doreen permalink

    Thanks for sharing the post. We in southern Ontario lost our camp and with transformation Divisions and Districts lost funds they might have had to Ontario Council. I know in our District there was money that was left by former guiders. Wish we could get a statement of how much our camp was sold for.

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