I’ve been having a number of déjà vu moments over the past six weeks as I’ve been holding a series of Town Hall discussions in communities across Canada. As I complete my term as your Chief Commissioner and Chair of the Board of Governors, I recall having begun my term the same way, talking with individual Scouters about their vision for this great Movement, about the work we needed to do together, and about how we could bring Scouting to more youth across Canada than ever before.
Over three years ago, we were developing SCOUTING NOW: the Action Plan for Canadian Scouting, and challenging ourselves to make Scouting great again, to make Scouting a relevant and exciting option for youth and their parents. SCOUTING NOW challenged us to think big, to act boldly, and to act with urgency.
The results speak for themselves: Four years of growth, something that Scouts Canada has not experienced for many decades. It couldn’t have happened in a more challenging Scouting year. And it couldn’t be credited to a better, more dedicated, harder working group of Scouters.
We are far from done. Four years of growth – four years of success – has simply inspired our sense of what more can be accomplished, and of how many more young Canadians we can reach. We can be proud of the momentum we’ve built, but the truth is that we are only just beginning. If there’s one thing we’ve learned over this past year, it’s that nothing can hold back this bold, dynamic Movement.
I’ve prepared a very short video that I would like to share with you that captures the thoughts and thanks that I would have preferred to have delivered to each and every one of you in person, but that simply isn’t possible. Please find a few minutes to watch it, and please accept my heartfelt thanks.
During the past four years, we’ve adopted a new slogan ‘It starts with Scouts.’And as I complete my term as your Chief Commissioner, I am struck by the profound nature of that simple phrase
For me, so much of my personal values and goals started with Scouts. And in every one of my actions as your Chief Commissioner, I considered the current Scouts who would be affected and the new Scouts we could attract if we got back to basics. And I thought about how their personal values and goals would be shaped by their experiences, how many aspects of their future lives could ‘start with Scouts.’
Today, I am reflecting on the past four years, the adventures those years have brought, the changes we have made to Scouting in Canada, and celebrating how those changes have helped revive Scouting and attract incredible numbers of new members.
And as I say goodbye to my current role in the organization, and take on new challenges, I’m also moved by the sheer potential of Scouting, the places we can go, and the impact we can have on individual lives, and the future of our country.
Serving as your Chief Commissioner has been a privilege, and I am honoured by the trust you have shown in me over the past four years. I have thoroughly enjoyed both the joys and the challenges and now, I look forward to passing on the torch. I have tremendous confidence in your new Chair of the Board and Chief Commissioner, Andrew Price. He’s an amazing Scout, and he and our team will build on the solid foundation we’ve laid together.
As Andrew takes on his new role, I look forward to taking on new roles within Scouting and continuing to work with all of you to bring our dynamic, progressive Scouting Movement to more youth across this country than ever before.
This has been an incredible experience for me and my family, and there’s a lot that I am going to miss and while I’ve been preparing for this transition for months, I think it’s going to take a little bit of time to sink in.
I love this Movement and I am passionate about its past, and its future.
For the past 26 years, Scouting has played a big role in shaping who I am, the kind of person I strive to be and of the kind of life I want to lead.
Throughout my Cub Scout and Scout years, I made some lifelong friends. I had my first opportunities to play leadership roles. I learned about teamwork. About goal setting and project planning. I fell in love with the outdoors. I fell in love with Scouting.
Four years ago, I wanted to inspire more young people to see themselves as Leaders, believing in my heart that our great Movement sets youth on a path where they develop into capable, confident and well-rounded individuals, better prepared for success in the world.
And you felt the same way. A passion for Scouting runs in your blood, as it does in mine. You believe in building better communities helping young people reach their full potential and in keeping Scouting vigorous and strong.
These are the beliefs that inspired us to begin developing the SCOUTING NOW Action Plan, when Scouting was still trying to follow a faded map put in place many years ago. That map was leading youth to an important place, but the route was no longer relevant to them, and so fewer and fewer people were willing to follow it. I’m certain that if the decline had continued, within a decade or so our Movement would have become irrelevant and faced extinction.
I wasn’t prepared to allow that to happen, and I knew at the time that that there were thousands upon thousands of dedicated fellow Scouters who wanted to find a new map, so you could keep leading Scouts to that important place – self-reliance. You all believe in Scouting, in its principles, in its potential, and in its value to our society – otherwise you wouldn’t be still be here, doing the amazing work that you do.
Working together, we met with Scouters across the country to discuss a bright, bold future, and challenged ourselves to make Scouting great again. We wanted to make Scouting a relevant and exciting option for Canadian youth and for Canadian families.
We rose to that challenge – each and every one of us. We turned Scouts Canada from an declining, old-fashioned organization, into an attractive, energetic Movement that embodies the spirit of the youth that drive everything we do. Now, more than ever, ‘It starts with Scouts.’
By meeting that challenge, we found relevant ways to support our volunteers so they have a great Scouting experience and draw deep satisfaction from their work. In turn, those Scouters pour their satisfaction and excitement into great Scouting adventures for our youth.
We’ve launched a new brand, a new uniform, new image and recruitment advertising, new recruitment toolkits and growth jumpstarts. We recruited and trained a national network of youth spokespeople, making youth the face of Scouting.
We’ve created new ways for youth to get more out of Scouting. We’re involving them at every level, and we’re training them well. We’re giving them new opportunities to represent Scouting at home, and all around the world.
All of these things were key elements of the vision that you helped define.
Another important part of that vision, is to address the realities of the world we live in. And that has not been without its challenges. Providing a safe environment for our Scouts to grow in has been core to our Scouting culture for over 105 years, but we are not perfect, and in these past few years we have seen our past practices in volunteer screening and oversight come under considerable scrutiny.
How did we respond? We are Scouts. We did the right thing. We did it the right way. We acknowledged where mistakes were made, we apologized and tried to make amends. We faced the issue with compassion and courage, and we seized the opportunity to learn from our past and strengthen our future.
I know that it hasn’t been easy on you. Trust me when I tell you that it hasn’t been easy on me either… or on my family… but facing challenges is a strength we all learn in Scouting. We all worked through it, we learned from it, and we are stronger for it.
This is a pivotal point for Scouts Canada. People all over the country are working with determination and a common vision to prepare Scouting for a second century of success. We have lots to celebrate about the Scouting Movement of the 20th century, and we will have plenty more to celebrate about Scouting in the next century. Our dynamic, responsive approach means an incredible future for Scouting in Canada.
We’ll reach our goals by continuing to make good on the great promise that has always stood at the centre of Scouting: To help young people realize and reach their full potential. To help show the way and shape their future.
I am reminded of the words of our Founder:
“The ‘encouraging promise’ lies in the fact that the hundreds of thousands of boys and girls who are learning our ideals today will be fathers and mothers of millions in the near future, in whom they will in turn inculcate the same ideals, provided that these are really and unmistakably impressed upon them by their fathers and mothers of today.”
Thanks to your hard work, and your commitment to our vision, Scouts Canada has once again taken its rightful place as the leading organization for youth in our nation. I’d like to thank each and every one of you for helping our organization realize that dream.
If, as we like to say, It Starts With Scouts, then Scouts starts with the incredible quality and commitment of its volunteer Leaders.
As leaders, you are a credit to our organization. You make Scouting what it is.
None of what we have done and none of what we plan to do would be possible without you. What Scouts Canada is today – what we intend to be tomorrow – is due to the hard work and freely- offered time of parents, of family and of friends. It is the generosity of an army of 25,000 passionate volunteers that lifts our prospects and raises our purpose.
The past four years have shown me that nothing that can stop us from bringing Scouts Canada as high as we want to go. SCOUTING NOW was a call to action. We heeded that call and learned that we must let nothing stop us from connecting more youth with Scouting. Youth members keep Scouting young, and Scouting helps them grow into the confident, capable citizens of tomorrow.
So I leave you with this: Let’s stay focused on moving forward… continuing to think big and growing our membership. We can be bigger and better than we’ve ever been by the year 2020. Please keep that dream alive. Let’s continue working together on strategies that will build our Movement; and excite a whole new generation of Scouters and youth.
We have an opportunity to do even greater things, as Scouting inspires individuals, and those individuals inspire Scouting.
Looking back over the past four years, I can’t tell you how honoured I have been to have served you through the challenges and through the joys of fostering the growth of Scouts Canada.
Moving forward, I want to continue working with you, side by side, to keep our great organization growing and responding to the needs of our society and our world. Even with so many great moments in our past, I still believe that our greatest moments are still to come.
As your Chief Commissioner, I have had the opportunity to work with so many Scouts and Scouters across the country in the past four years. I am inspired by you all, and I thank you for your contribution to the organization we all hold dear.
The pride I feel in having had the opportunity to serve as your Chief Commissioner over the past four years runs very deep, and I will carry it in my heart for the rest of my life. Thank you for the opportunity to serve you and to serve Scouts Canada.
In closing, I’d like to leave you with some more words from Baden Powell:
“But the real way to get happiness is by giving out happiness to other people. Try and leave this world a little better than you found it and when your turn comes to die, you can die happy in feeling that at any rate you have not wasted your time but have done your best. “Be Prepared” in this way, to live happy and to die happy – stick to your Scout promise always – even after have ceased to be a child – and God help you to do it.”
Thank you for the happiness this opportunity to serve you has brought me, and I hope that my efforts have helped leave our Scouting world better than we found it. I have done my best.
Keep Scouting. And keep in touch.
Chief Commissioner and Chair of the Board of Governors