Canadian Jamboree at Camp Tamaracouta: Jul 25 -Aug 1 2007

Jamboree celebrates 100 years of Scouting

Scouts arrive en masse in Laurentians
Week full of competition and badge collecting

Published: Thursday, July 26 2007

They came from Flin Flon, Wawa, Toronto and Victoria; Nunavut and Prince Edward Island, Westmount and Pointe Claire - thousands came, all lugging heavy crates and backpacks full of tents and clothes and balls and badges.

This week, Scouts Canada is celebrating 100 years of Scouting around the world with the Historic Canadian Scout Jamboree. Nearly 8,000 Scouts and their leaders arrived yesterday at Tamaracouta Scout Reserve, in the Laurentians, from all corners of the country as well as from Kenya, Australia, Switzerland, England, Ireland and Thailand.

The 400-hectare camp in Mille Iles, 80 kilometres northwest of Montreal, will be home as Scouts celebrate and meet their kin from around the world for the next week.

Mackenzie Carson, 12, from Burlington, Ont., arrives at Camp Tamaracouta yesterday fully prepared for the week-long jamboree.

Tamaracouta is a beacon in the world of Scouting, being the oldest continuously running Scout camp in the world. It opened 95 years ago and has seen thousands of Scouts through its main gate every year - but never this many at one time.

"When we arrived, Laetitia said, 'Where are we?' " Neil MacKinnon, leader of the 2nd Westmount group, said of one of his Scouts.

The 2nd Westmount troop regularly visits Tamaracouta, but the camp has been substantially revamped over the last two years to accommodate the jamboree - adding, among other things, hundreds of extra camping sites and underground potable water lines.

Tamaracouta is now a tent city, but some of the campsites redefine the ubiquitous "Be prepared" Scout motto, featuring outdoor kitchens that would have Martha Stewart cooing.

The flags flew as high as the spirits yesterday, and friendly competition started as campers attempted to figure out who has the best set-up.

But the real competition - the crux of all jamborees - is badge collecting.

"Part of this is, you show off your region," MacKinnon said.

All groups bring badges to represent their province or town and exchange them. By yesterday afternoon, kids were already lining up hundreds of badges on picnic tables, comparing collections and seeking rarities.

"Some places, like the Yukon or P.E.I., those can go for 10 badges," said Virginia Elliott, also a leader of 2nd Westmount.

It has badges aplenty, but what Scouts Canada really needs are more MacKinnons and Elliotts, Chief Commissioner Glenn Armstrong said.

"We don't have any problems recruiting kids; it's the adults that's the problem" he said.

A strict screening process, involving Health Canada and the RCMP, as well as time commitments, can thin the ranks of Scout leaders, Armstrong said.

He added that many adult volunteers, known as Scouters, are lured simply by the love of Scouting, and have no children involved in the movement.

As Max Yatrou, 13, of 2nd Westmount noted, "If it weren't for the adults, we wouldn't have all this."

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Being Prepared

Details about Scouts Canada:

78,000 Scouts

24,000 Scouters

(adult volunteers)

Girls accepted since 1994

The Jamboree

6,000 Scouts at the jamboree

1,500 Scouters

Scouts from: Australia, England, Ireland, Kenya, Switzerland, Thailand

Scouts have units in 155 countries around the world

© The Gazette (Montreal) 2007