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Girl Guide camp money must be returned: court

by on July 20, 2016

By Bob Bruton, Barrie Examiner
Monday, July 18, 2016 4:48:44 EDT PM

More than $240,000 raised for a never-built Girl Guide lodge north of Barrie must be returned to donors, an Ontario court has ruled.

The Superior Court of Justice, in a June 16, 2016 decision, has ordered the money returned to donors, or directed at their discretion, and that a letter be sent advising them of their choices and giving them 90 days from the decision to respond.

“That’s the vindication there, that the donors won,” said Sylvia Dufresne, one of the 19 defendants in a case involving Girl Guides of Canada.

“It’s good for all charities, I think, to pay attention that when money’s raised for something, it had better be used for that,” she said. “I consider that a really important lesson from this case.”

Girl Guides of Canada’s National Office could not be reached for comment Monday by the Examiner.

Camp Tewateno is 100-acres of land along Gill Road, just outside Midhurst, owned by Guides Canada.

The Camp Tewateno development committee raised money for a new lodge there, but fearing the property could be sold, would not turn the funds over to Girl Guides.

A statement of claim filed with the courts accused the group of refusing to account for the money raised, as well as wrongfully retaining possession and control over the funds.

The group said it was rightfully holding onto the money until it received assurances from Girl Guides the money would stay in the community and be used to build a lodge at Camp Tewateno.

Girl Guides of Canada officials said at the time there was never any intention to sell Camp Tewateno.

But Guides Canada launched legal action against members of the Camp Tewateno development committee.

At one point Dufresne separated herself from the other defendants, she said, because a settlement not to her liking was being worked out with Guides Canada – until the Ontario Public Guardian and Trustee became involved.

An arm of Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General, it can protect the public’s interest in how charities raise and use their money.

“The Public Guardian stepping in is what finally turned the whole thing around,” Dufresne said of the seven-year battle.

The court ordered $19,729 returned to the Barrie Bingo Sponsors Association, as well as $240,205 to those who had made a donation to Camp Tewateno between 1994 and 2009.

‘At the time of donation, you were informed that the money was being raised in order to build a new lodge at Camp Tewateno and develop the camp,’ the letter from Guides Canada reads. ‘However, due to unforeseeable events GGC (Girl Guides Canada) has decided that this lodge will not be built.

‘Instead, these funds will, at your election, be returned to you or be reallocated to other GGC initiatives which will enable the betterment of GGC and its members.’

The donations can be reallocated to subsidize girls from lower-income families so they can attend Girl Guides camps. Or the funds can go to the Canadian World Friendship Fund, which would then transfer them to the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts for programs outside Canada.

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice decision includes a list of 75 donors to be repaid, including individuals, businesses and associations.

Dufresne said that in the course of the battle with Guides Canada, members of the Camp Tewateno development committee were turfed from an organization many had been with for decades as volunteers.

Despite an endorsement from Justice R. MacKinnon, who made the court decision, Dufresne said their status with Guides Canada remains unchanged.


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