Scouts Canada: Flawed policies hampered abuse reporting
Published Monday, June 25, 2012 11:26AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, June 25, 2012 1:05PM EDT
An arms-length review of record-keeping at Scouts Canada suggests the youth organization has several procedural problems when it comes to handling and reporting allegations of sexual misconduct.
The forensic review, conducted by private auditing firm KPMG, explores how the association handled sexual misconduct cases over a 64-year period -- from 1947 to 2011.
Out of 486 alleged abuse cases, the audit confirmed that at least 65 cases weren't shared with authorities -- either at the request of the victim or due to procedural failings.
Upon the audit's release on Monday, Scouts Canada Chief Commissioner Steve Kent said the organization didn't deliberately cover up possible abuses but conceded that there were some bureaucratic errors.
"There have been times where our systems have failed; where policies and procedures haven't been followed, where records weren't kept very well, where suspensions and terminations didn't happen in a timely fashion," he told CTV News Channel in an interview from Ottawa.
Kent first acknowledged the organization's possible failings last February after media reports alleged that Scouts Canada maintained a list of suspected pedophiles dating back to at least the mid-1980s, but didn't share those names with police.
"When the organization's child and youth protection policies and practices were recently challenged, Scouts Canada took an honest, open and transparent approach that confronted both the good and the bad of its history," Scouts Canada said in a release issued on Friday.
The KPMG report notes that in 2001 Scouts Canada streamlined its procedure for dealing with sexual abuse allegations. The changes made it easier for Scouts groups to see whether volunteer leaders had been blacklisted in other provinces.
Previously unreported allegations turned over to police
Along with the review, the agency has released an update on its youth safety practices.
Kent said the agency is introducing new volunteer screening processes, as well as compulsory training and a youth education program.
"These are serious issues and we want to learn everything we can from this process," Kent told News Channel, adding he's relieved the audit didn't reveal any deliberate intent to hide abuse.
Scouts Canada says that all previously unreported abuse allegations uncovered by the audit have since been turned over to police.
Prior to the audit, Scouts Canada had repeatedly denied media allegations that the agency mishandled claims of abuse and failed to share a list of suspected pedophiles with police.
But that message changed last February when Commissioner Kent conceded that the audit had uncovered cases "where we can't confirm that law enforcement authorities were, in fact, contacted."
The findings prompted Kent to instruct his staff "to take immediate steps to contact the appropriate police departments across Canada" in possible child abuse cases, he told NTV, the CTV News affiliate in St. John's, N.L.
Canadian law dictates that anyone who suspects child abuse is obligated to report it to police and designated child protection authorities, which differs according to province or territory.
Seventeen-million Canadian children have been involved with Scouts Canada since its inception in 1907, according to figures provided by the organization.