Scout’s honour fails kids

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KPMG's forensic audit of Scouts Canada's records has resulted in 129 cases of alleged sexual abuse of children being reported to police. Its report amounts to an indictment of Canadian Scouting.

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 03/07/2012 (3742 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

KPMG’s forensic audit of Scouts Canada’s records has resulted in 129 cases of alleged sexual abuse of children being reported to police. Its report amounts to an indictment of Canadian Scouting.

Particularly damning is that the alleged abuse went on for so long (more than six decades), and remained hidden for just as long. More damning still is how Scouts Canada failed the young on so many fronts — failed in its duty to protect them, failed to comply with its own internal policies and procedures, and failed to comply with the law of the land.

KPMG’s independent review of the organization’s records involved 468 incidents that go back 64 years. Just over half the more than 100 cases recently turned over to police were never reported to authorities. As for the balance, Scouts Canada’s records were so deficient KPMG couldn’t even determine whether they previously had been reported, so these, too, went to police.

Nov 3 2010 winnipeg free press dale cummings edit dinky A CHILD AND FAMILY SERVICES / RESERVES / CHIEFS

The legal fallout from the review for Scouts Canada will be both criminal and civil. Following police investigations, individuals implicated in sexual misconduct may be charged with offences ranging from sexual exploitation and sexual interference to sexual assault. Accused or convicted perpetrators may also face civil lawsuits.

But the organization will also be caught in the legal crosshairs.

Scouts Canada is vicariously liable for the acts or omissions of its officials and volunteers. This means that if a Scout leader or official sexually abused a minor in the course of his or her scouting activities, or ignored evidence of someone in scouting circles engaging in sexual misconduct with a child, the organization, as well as the perpetrator, is apt to be sued for monetary damages.

But Scouts Canada’s legal jeopardy doesn’t end there. The KPMG audit found evidence of alleged sexual abuse documented in the organization’s files. Yet time and again no action was taken on those allegations.

Since the early 1990s, virtually all provinces and territories have enacted child-welfare laws that make it mandatory for youth and recreation employees and officials to report reasonable suspicion of child abuse, sexual or otherwise.

Scouts Canada was aware of this legal requirement. Moreover, in 1992 it made reporting suspected abuse part of its official policy.

Yet KPMG determined there were 13 cases of sexual misconduct known to Scouts Canada in or after 1992 that weren’t reported to the police, putting the organization not only in breach of its own policy, but the law.

Scouts Canada could well find itself and its officers sued for failure to comply with the compulsory disclosure requirements in the sundry provincial and territorial statutes. And if the failure to report alleged sexual abuse to authorities caused actual abuse to continue, or resume, damages awards could be substantial.

Moreover, the organization may be hard pressed to defend such claims. It hired KPMG to do an independent, arm’s-length report. But its own commissioned review has now become a fount of potential evidence against it.

Scouts Canada is a worthy organization with a long and venerable history. The good it has done over the years is unchallengeable. Its mandate is to help youth — help them to grow into capable, confident and well-rounded individuals. But it can’t help them if it can’t protect them from the predators in its ranks.

Scouts Canada chief commissioner Steve Kent’s attempts to put a positive spin on the KPMG report by stating he is relieved it “didn’t reveal any systemic attempt to cover up or hide any information relating to incidents that occurred in the past,” isn’t a good start. Ballyhooing KPMG’s finding no evidence of conspiracy is grossly inappropriate. The last thing Scouts Canada should be, in the wake of this report, is self-congratulatory.

The findings of the review should be a wake-up call not only for Scouts Canada but all organizations that work with children. The lesson learned: Organizations can’t just enact child-protection policies, they must enforce them. And if they don’t, the courts will fix the price of their negligence.

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