Oct 25, 2011
On Friday, October 21, 2011, CBC’s The Fifth Estate aired an investigative report examining how Scouts Canada and the Boy Scouts of America dealt with cases of sexual abuse, and how cases were recorded and shared with authorities. In responding to this breaking news story, Volunteer Canada was able to highlight best practices on volunteer screening, including the 10 Safe Steps of Screening available on www.volunteer.ca/screening.
The report alleges that Scouts Canada kept a confidential list of volunteers suspected of sexual abuse, and says the organization kept the information hidden from the police. Scouts Canada denied the accusations and their spokesperson John Petitti said the organization keeps records of suspension and termination, and shares the information with police and youth protection services.
The CBC has also uncovered more than a dozen civil cases accusing Scouts Canada of failing to protect children from abuse. For more information, see the latest article on the issue from CBC News. The full Fifth Estate piece is available online, as is a CBC news story outlining the report. Friday's investigative report by The Fifth Estate has sparked a raft of national news coverage, including best practices surrounding volunteer screening.
Bringing Best Practices of Screening to the Forefront
Ruth MacKenzie, President and CEO of Volunteer Canada, was interviewed by CBC TV for a news segment that aired nationally this past Friday as part of local CBC evening news broadcasts. Audio from MacKenzie's CBC TV interview also aired on various local CBC radio news reports. On Saturday morning, MacKenzie appeared live on CBC Newsworld in an interview with reporter Nancy Wilson.
In media interviews, Volunteer Canada did not speculate on Scouts Canada’s past screening practices and protocols. Volunteer Canada focused on issues related to volunteer screening. Among the many important core messages conveyed by Ruth MacKenzie were the following:
- Screening involves much more than police record checks. While police record checks are one of the 10 Safe Steps of Screening, screening is a comprehensive process meant to keep vulnerable people safe.
- Canadians can learn more about volunteering screening atwww.volunteer.ca/screening, including detailed information about the 10 Safe Steps of Screening.
- Parents should take the important first step of asking organizations to detail their screening practices before children are entrusted with volunteers.
- If a volunteer is accused of abuse, the organization should follow best practices and suspend the volunteer as well as alert Police Services and Child Protection Services. All measures should be in accordance with provincial law.
- It is of the utmost importance to ensure the privacy of volunteers accused of abuse, as these people may ultimately be proven not guilty. While records should be shared with law enforcement and child protection agencies, they should otherwise be kept confidential in accordance with privacy legislation.
Volunteer Canada’s Work on Screening
Volunteer Canada is planning to host national dialogues on screening as a first step to re-establish the National Educational Campaign on Screening. The discussion aims to identify the current issues and challenges in the voluntary sector. This will help us develop our pan-Canadian screening campaign, in collaboration with local volunteer centres and provincial associations. The program will raise awareness of the importance of screening, and build sector capacity to conduct comprehensive screening practices.
Volunteer Canada, in partnership with the RCMP, offered a series of webinars on the 10 Safe Steps of Screening and an overview of the process for obtaining Vulnerable Sector Checks. More than 400 people working in the voluntary sector attended the workshops, from organizations that provide services to seniors, people with disabilities, those requiring home-support services, day cares, and youth-serving agencies. Another webinar series is in the works, and will be announced on www.volunteer.ca.
In the mid-1990s, Volunteer Canada launched the National Educational Campaign on Screening, including the 10 Safe Steps of Screening. The program was meant to mitigate abuse toward vulnerable people and to raise awareness of the importance of properly screening volunteers. The initiative was a key resource in the development of the National Sex Offender Registry, a Canada-wide database accessible to police services. Both programs have enhanced the standards and practices of volunteer screening in the past 15 years. While these initiatives have greatly improved the protection of vulnerable people, there is still more work to do to raise awareness of these best practices and to facilitate collaboration among key players.
The following are links to some of the current top news stories on the issue:
Tell us what you think. Visit the Volunteer Canada Facebook page and share your thoughts on volunteer screening.
Volunteer Canada — The National Voice for Volunteerism in Canada
With more than 30 years of passionate commitment to the cause of volunteering and civic participation, Volunteer Canada inspires Canadians to be engaged from coast to coast. Volunteer Canada develops programs, leads national initiatives, creates tools, and conducts vital research for the non-profit sector, including critical work on best practices involunteer screening.
Focused on influencing social policy and developing valuable resources around volunteerism, the organization helps non-profits and businesses build capacity for the changing culture of volunteerism. It recognizes the impact of Canada’s 12.5 million volunteers through national campaigns and works with its Corporate Council on Volunteering to catalyze conversations about corporate community involvement. Volunteer Canada works collaboratively with volunteer centres, business, and non-profit organizations to support volunteerism and the ultimate agents of social change, Canada’s volunteers.