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The provincial Girl Guides organization, which took over all the Guides camps in the province in 2007, now wants to sell the rural camp and use the profits to fund other more successful camps in the GTA, among other things.
“The decisions around which camps were retained and those that were closed was based on a careful analysis of current and projected usage, amenities, proximity to guiding populations and financial viability,” said Ontario council spokeswoman Nisha Lewis in an email.
At that time, salaries for the council more than doubled from $ 1.45 million to $ 3.46 million following staff increases needed to fill the void left by volunteers who managed financial and decision-making at local and regional levels
Van Trigt said the litmus test for viability was biased against smaller camps.
This, in her opinion, is an unfair question because Camp Aneesh serves a small percentage of the province’s Guides. “It was a total ‘Let’s keep the camps that are used by the girls in the GTA.’”
In their statement of claim, the Owen Sound group argued that the transfer was merely for housekeeping purposes, “to allow for insurance to be placed against the property and that the transfer would not alter the availability of the camp for future generations.”
Because the camp was put in trust to the Owen Sound Division of Girl Guides in 1984, and not to the Friends of Camp Aneesh, the argument over trust could not be made. Lawyers for the provincial council put a motion forward under this argument and the claim was thrown out.
The Owen Sound Division ceased to exist after Girl Guides Ontario eliminated geographic areas in 2007 at the same time it took control of the camps.
“When that happened, all the assets of the districts, divisions and areas became property of the province,” van Trigt said.
In her Dec. 4 decision, Justice Katherine van Rensburg made it clear the best approach was to terminate the action, “while permitting the plaintiff . . . to commence suitable proceedings.”
For 38 years, the camp was operated locally. Fundraising efforts, support from West Hill Secondary School and rentals to other organizations, such as Scouts and Katimavik, helped the local Guides division keep the camp afloat.
If it wasn’t for the hundreds of hours put in by volunteers, a number of second- and third-generation Guiders from the community, the camp wouldn’t have stayed successful for nearly 40 years.
In 2008, however, guidelines for camps to stay financially viable changed to allow donations to be included.
Either way, with the camp on the chopping block, the future of Guiding is threatened — if younger Guides aren’t able to camp (a cornerstone of Guiding) then Guides will fizzle out, van Trigt said.
“The whole thing about camping: if you get them when they are little, they’ll stay with Guiding. This whole thing is just tragic.”