ONE MORE EDIT (2019-03-07): I have gotten a few messages that my post was removed from the Scouts Canada Facebook page. If you didn’t see this coming, then you didn’t read the post. I promote breaking the rules… that should be offensive to them. If they were a better run organization they would choose to learn from their mistakes but failing to learn lessons is NOT an uncommon response to criticism so let’s cut these guys a little break on that and enjoy a conversation so that we can figure out how to best fill the gaps in their policies to provide safe and fun adventures.
Quick edit here (2019-03-06)… during the 30-40 hours of reading, writing, proofing and creating PDF files for this post, Scouts Canada has made one of the most prompt and intelligent decisions I have ever seen… we will talk about that more at the end of the post…
So as of today, March 2, 2019, the guiding document of rules and regulations for Scouts Canada, summarily called BP&P (Bylaws, Policies, and Procedures) is no longer in effect. Scouts Canada just released three new documents to replace it… kind of.
Anyone who knows me has heard me praise SC (Scouts Canada) right up there with their biggest fans… they have also heard me rip into them for the nightmares they cause. Today, I write with some very mixed emotions.
When I started in Scouting in 2010, I was introduced to a document called Scouts Canada Bylaws, Policies, and Procedures. I am an anal choleric personality with a touch of OCD which led me to read through the entire 255-page document. It hurt. It also caused me to immediately complain to SC and they changed BP&P that year. And that was the last time they listened to anything I said.
What was my First Problem with BP&P in 2010?
The problem that I had back then was with the SC two-deep rule which states that no youth should ever be left with a scouter (adult volunteer) without a second scouter. It also said that no parent could supervise more than 3 youth unattended by another scouter, even if they were their own children. I kinda lost my mind on some poor guy in Ottawa. I have 9 kids and SC had a rule that said I could not bring more than three to camp alone. If I ever had more than three of my own youth, then I needed a chaperone. Common sense would dictate that if the law and my wife would allow me to take 4 kids to the grocery store, I could take them for a hike at a scout camp.
I have taken issue with many things they did, but I was told in 2014 that BP&P was being updated and I could add comments. I added my comments which basically asked them to be less specific about everything and to stop micromanaging the volunteers. I get that they need to cover their asses, but life is not all about CYA paperwork. Their goal should have been to “help us help you” a la Jerry McGuire, but I think their motto is “one more thing to read or fill out won’t hurt anyone”.
I also went on a long rant about their revision controls basically because it was such a large part of my daily work life. They had very little control over the revisioning of the old document which was titled bpp.pdf every time I downloaded it, even though I have at least half a dozen different versions from the past several years.
Five Years Later
So, let’s go back to my first paragraph… “Scouts Canada just released three new documents…”.
They released three new ‘documents’ (I use that term very loosely); Scouts Canada Bylaws, Scouts Canada Policies and Standards, and Scouts Canada Procedures. They aren’t documents, but web publications. Each document is a series of different webpages that give information and have a ton of links to external documents as well. There are a ton of problems with this. SC no longer treats this document(s) as the legal rules and regulations for volunteers to learn about their roles. They treat it as some living document that is fluid and changes on a whim which is ridiculous for regulations or rules.
Yes, they finally released updated rules for volunteers to learn and follow, but…
- they don’t allow us to print them off,
- they aren’t numbered to promote discussion and debate on individual topics
- they aren’t tagged in any sensible revision control (yet the bottom of each document has a date which I assume would represent its current release date though nothing to tell you what changed),
- there is no subscription path that would allow anyone to stay informed as to when a change was made (which would promote healthy communication, something SC tends to abhor if history is indicative of their goals)
- and they aren’t searchable… at all.
Because I find this last point to be unacceptable, I have created a horrible version of their ‘documents’ which will allow you to download, print, and search for keywords…
- scouts-canada-policies-and-standards_2019-03-05b (edited 2019-05-07)
Everyone Thinks I Am Unhappy
It seems that everyone thinks I am unhappy about the new release this week. Let’s make something clear, I am extremely excited that they finally did something… anything. After five years, I am ecstatic.
They did many things right but publishing these documents to the web was not one of them. Everything mentioned above round off a huge list of mistakes… and I just touched on some of the problems.
There is supposed to be some new features coming out in the very near future (like searching) but where in the private sector do you ever release a product haphazardly and let your users figure out where it fails? I mean beside Microsoft. Especially when the lives of youth are at stake? Maybe with the word ‘lives’ I get a little melodramatic, but this document puts at risk, everything that we try to do to ensure safe and fun adventures for our youth.
They also did some crazy things with the links. While I like that the links are there to explain what a lifeguard is, the links cannot direct me to a SC tip-sheet to explain what the rules are. That was what the document I just left was for. The policies are covered in a policy document, not some cut-sheet made to teach 10-year old children about safety.
Let’s look at the first paragraph of the First Aid standards which includes, “Every Scouting adventure requires an emergency response plan, which will include first aid and emergency medical care coverage” except the footnote says, “ Definition of medical care required”. Who wrote this? You can’t tell me that youth safety is important… hell, you can’t convince me that it is even on your radar if your First Aid policy doesn’t define what medical care is. How on earth could you not find a definition before going live?
If these documents were meant to be revised with user suggestions, they would have not released them with the words “Effective Date” followed by the publication date. They would have put September 1, 2019 or something and allowed an open discussion to proceed. Or they would have released it for comment to groups of volunteers and staff who represented the front line for discussion over six months and gathered data from focus groups. I have written before about how horrible SC is at communication though, and this is just one more example I suppose. They felt a little under the gun I am sure after taking half a decade to rewrite the company bylaws.
Am I Happy, Even a little Bit?
So, it turns out I am not as happy as I really thought I was… or maybe as happy as I wanted to be.
The fact is that our national body decided to put out this document with very little interest in what the front-line volunteers need and want from the national body.
I am super pleased with some of the work they did to clarify some new legalities like not classifying marijuana in the same line as cigarettes. The drug and alcohol policy clearly denies the use of anything that impairs your thinking. I agree with SC here, alcohol and marijuana are in the same group, which is where they belong to anyone who isn’t stoned or drunk.
It is clear that nobody cares about what I have to say at SC office in Ottawa, but for some strange reason, many of my fellow scouting volunteers are asking me questions, so here are a couple answers…
First of all, to those who talk about leaving SC and moving to other organizations, or just quitting altogether, I will give you the same piece of advice that I gave you when SC released their last iteration of their Code of Conduct. Some of the changes they made are ridiculous. Follow what you can. Ignore what you can’t. Break whatever rules are needed to provide fun and safe adventures until you get kicked out.
Secondly, we as volunteers have been ignoring and bypassing SC paperwork and rules since long before I got involved, so to quit or move your group because of more paperwork or regulations doesn’t make sense to me. At the same time, the ramifications of SC inundating all of us with more regulations than an EU trade agreement, seems daunting and I don’t blame any of you for the choices that you make.
My Problems are Numerous
So, if I am not happy, and I clearly have issues with the way the documents were created, released, and announced, would you be surprised to hear that my real problems are with the documents’ contents? I know, you thought I already complained enough but I actually haven’t even started. I won’t rip into them about everything, but I will mention a couple biggies that bother me…
- Beavers can’t swim without a lifeguard.
- Our youth are not allowed the knives that six year-old youth are given in Europe.
- Beavers can’t use nerf guns or sling shots?
My big problems with these three policy changes are not actually about the policies. I have been ignoring stupid rules since I started and can keep that up, but I want to point out some glaring incompetence with each point:
- Nobody can swim without a lifeguard.
The new rule reads:
“Beaver Scout Colonies may participate in aquatic activities at pools and waterfronts
I. Supervised by certified lifeguards ” (the footnote explains that SC feels the advice of a lifeguard is more important than having fun and safe adventures with common sense as a guideline to safety)
But there is more… point 3 reads:
“3. Cub Scout Packs, Scout Troops, Venturer Scout Companies, and Rover Scout Crews may participate in aquatic activities at pools and waterfronts supervised by certified lifeguards”
That’s right, SC thinks they can dictate whether an adult can swim without a lifeguard. I can’t even legally force a 25-year old rover to wear a life jacket but Scouts Canada thinks they can force them to stay out of the water without a lifeguard. You can add this to the list of crap they wrote that will be ignored by thousands of scout volunteers and tens of thousands of youth across the country this summer!
With all of these pages, you can click on an FAQ link at the bottom of the document and for swimming changes, this is what it reads:
Q: What has changed from the previous Standards?
A: This replaces the Swimming Standards (10006.8) to provide updated requirements for waterfront supervision with guidance from Lifesaving Canada and includes requirements for swimming activities when a qualified supervisor is not present.”
NOTE: Do you see how nice it is to explain to volunteers what has changed when you can point to section 10006.8 in the old BP&P? Say good-bye to that logical use of common sense because you followed the advice of some marketing company and designed a web page for 12-year old children rather than the adults who need to access it for information.
Oh, and you also looked for advice from a group called “Lifesaving Canada” to change the rules for water activities and now all youth sections, including Rovers (18-26 years of age) are either going to pay for a lifeguard at their activities, or stop telling you that they are going to the lake. Smart move SC.
- Our youth are not allowed the knives that six-year old youth are given in Europe.
Seriously. To limit youth to an 8.5cm blade (3.45″) is ridiculous. And to declare that it must be a locking blade no less. Almost half the knife injuries I have ever seen are from opening and closing the blade. When I was in Finland in 2016, they made me feel stupid for defending locking blades. They have all but eliminated them from their scouting program for a decade. They do have the same size limit on blades though, but for their six-year old whittlers.
They have given us an out, by letting the Group Commissioner take responsibility, rather than the youth and adults supervising who used to take this on. And they also give an out for kitchens. Notice the rule would eliminate almost every kitchen knife that we use.
- Beavers can’t use nerf guns or sling shots?
No youth can do archery or build a trebuchet any longer except where “potential wild animal encounters may jeopardize participant safety” or on a range… guess what gets added to every risk assessment in Canada. I suppose it might be easier to classify some targets on a wall “a range” than to explain how a pack of hyenas might get into the gymnasium on a Wednesday night.
The “Firearms and Safety Standards” says:
“Firearms and weapons are only permitted during Scouts Canada activities or on Scouts Canada property where potential wild animal encounters may jeopardize participant safety. The Council Relationships Manager must approve the possession or use of firearms and weapons”
and then further clarify what a weapon is…
“ Weapons are defined as any hand-held object, catapult, trebuchet or similar device, or any barreled weapon from which any object, shot, bullet or other object is thrown or can be discharged that is capable of causing serious bodily injury or death to a person. This includes, but is not limited to, any thrown object than can cause bodily harm or any device that propels a projectile by means of explosion, compressed gas, spring, propeller, jet, elastic, rubber, string, bow, or anything similar.”
Clearly archery and catapults are now banned activities, unless you think there are bear in the area. In which case, what scouts wouldn’t build a trebuchet to protect themselves? Clearly, we need to take youth-led to the next level and let them take over our national office so the documentation can make some sense.
Wait! Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, the very next page (Shooting Sports Standards) says that youth can shoot semi-automatic rifles! I had no idea that this was always in the old BP&P.
“Scouts, Venturer Scouts, and Rover Scouts may practise firearms range shooting with a lawful barreled weapon from which any object, shot, or bullet is thrown or can be discharged according to the laws of Canada.”
I already found a Venturer camp in our area that has skeet shooting on its activity list… there is simply no way I am letting this one get away before revisions are made.
Wait a second, I have been trying to get a trebuchet built that would launch scouting volunteers into a lake… and now it looks like it is allowed! Tonille… guess what my next risk assessment is going to include?
“Scouts, Venturer Scouts, and Rover Scouts may practise range shooting with weapons not covered above, according to the laws of Canada. This includes catapults, trebuchets, and similar weapons”
So if I am to understand this properly, you can’t have any weapon (nerf guns included because they can take out an eye) unless you are on a range, then you can shoot any legal firearm. Now the one thing that the new BP&P allows for with its wording is hunting. If there are wild animals present, you can carry any legal gun off a range. That is called hunting.
This documentation has more holes in it than the Harry Potter storyline and it’s giving me a headache after 30 hours of reading.
This is a Blog Post, not a Novel
I have more problems with the new rules, but this is a blog post, not a novel…
- The membership no longer includes any instructions as per birthdates.
Anyone could sign up if they were going to be that section’s age requirement before the end of the scouting year except beavers required you to be 5 by the end of the calendar year. That was until several years ago when they announced that beavers had to be five years old to register.
In 2016 they changed BP&P to just use birthdays which makes things convoluted… way to clarify this with the new documentation SC.
- The COAA (Camping and Outdoor Activity Application) is woefully unacceptable and we have been told we can’t recreate it. It has not been updated since 2007 and it clearly is designed to allow scout volunteers to miss important documentation.
- How come so few of these policies have been approved by the board? Some have but the majority have no approval date. This is a significant lapse on more than one person.
- I can’t lead low ropes adventures for our youth any longer!
The new rule states:
“The personnel leading activities must be certified according to ACCT training standards”
Although I signed up for the very first course offered in Northern Lights Council, it was only a one-day course and nobody attained any certifications. Now SC is making it clear that my knowledge, training, and experiences mean nothing to them because I haven’t taken $300 and flown to Ontario to take a course that is offered in Alberta once every 5 years.
- Parents cannot drive their own youth anywhere at an activity without two scouters. Are you kidding? It’s a good thing that the transportation policy wasn’t approved by a board anywhere. We are off the hook for a while.
It turns out that I am happy about this one. A little bit at least. They actually clarify a rule that has been in dispute forever, whether you needed two adults in a vehicle travelling to an event. Of course, the Transportation Standards document has probably my favorite footnote of all three documents for point 3(b):
“Charter air flights organized in the name of Scouts Canada must be approved by the Executive Commissioners and Chief Executive Officer .”
The footnote simply reads, “ See BP&P 19002”
That’s right, they point to the now expired and over-ruled BP&P document for clarification. Unless they are trying to say that the old and new documents can co-exist? Nope, not even this group is that whack.
This list could go on forever. If I missed a new rule that really bothers you, feel free to let me know if the comments below on the blog post. If you comment on this post on Facebook or Twitter, I assure you that I will miss most of your comments. That would make me sad.
One Last Comment for Councils
I have seen some damage control from our Council here, basically begging people to shut up and send their comments to national so that they can be used productively. There are two problems with that.
- History has shown us that the best communication and truly most of the best learning, comes from social media, volunteer-led training, volunteer-organized events, and open discussions with front line volunteers and youth.
- There were a couple options to comment on the initial discussions for the BP&P rewrite and none of those comments were even responded to (my personal experiences here) and absolutely none of them were implemented. Why would you value a help desk ticket over my direct responses to your emailed questions?
Rather than threatening to shut down discussions on social media, embrace them and learn something. Why ask people to open tickets with a help desk that couldn’t keep up with the problems they already had? You have one of the worst managed IT departments I have ever seen and now you are asking them to filter through thousands of help desk tickets filled with ranting and complaining. What happens to the poor registrar asking a question about reports not functioning in MyScouts this month?
Once again, as I have said before, the IT department may be horrible at their jobs but the directions for their mandates come from above. I have no idea where, but someone in management is screwing this up like it is their mission in life.
Stop trying to direct everyone’s comments on Facebook and start taking notes. It is going to be a long spring… especially if nobody under 26 is allowed to go swimming or canoeing without a lifeguard.
Let’s end this on a bright note for all you scouting volunteers… the SC suspension policy holds no higher regard for these new documents than most scouters do. There is apparently no amount of ignorance of these policies and standards that is grounds for a suspension. Follow your code of conduct and continue giving fun and safe opportunities for adventures to Canadian youth and worry not about these policies and standards because they are more like guidelines than actual rules.
Now back to the changes that Scouts Canada has introduced within 4 days of releasing the web pages I have been ranting about. They have allowed the First Aid Standards and Swimming Standards to revert back to the old rules until the new rules take effect on September 1, 2019 (hmmm, who would have suggested that 2000 words ago?).
They also made changes to the Transportation Standards and Appointment of Scouters Standards but the original was never approved by the board so I suppose they can make whatever changes they want.
Download that document here… Important Update on Scouts Canada’s Policies and Procedures_en_2019-03-06