A Brief Canadian Guiding History Compiled by: Sheila Fowler, for use in Beverley Crim's JGL Newsletter, Feb. 98 issue


BP called for a rally at the Crystal Palace so he could meet the boys and see how many were involved in his great idea of Scouting. Nesta Maude Ashworth and AH Malcolmson were two girls who attended. After BP was over his shock of girls crashing the rally, he appealed to his sister Agnes to help organize a program for the girls. The early girl members had registered using their initials. They used their brother's Scouting books. A. H. Malcolmson lived in Canada. Nesta later moved to British Columbia where she fascinated youth and adults alike with stories of the earliest days of Guiding.


Word of Guiding spread in Canada like wild fire! Companies sprang up in several communities across Canada. The 1st St. Catharines' Company (St. Catharines, Ontario) has the honour of being recognized as the FIRST REGISTERED company in Canada. Their registration is dated January 11,1910. There is some dispute as to where the first company actually was opened as several were opened about the same time in Toronto, Ontario and Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, and Winnipeg, Manitoba. Paperwork counts!

As families immigrated to Canada, girls who had been Guides in England wanted to continue in their new home community. Many companies were opened across the country.


Lady Jane Pellatt and her husband Henry lived in a castle like manor in Toronto called Casa Loma. Lady Pellatt was appointed the first Chief Commissioner of Canada. The Pellats almost solely funded the early years of Guiding in Canada. Guides were invited to their home on special occasions to skate, for a garden party a concert, and so on. Today, in Casa Loma, there are wonderful Girl Guide and Boy Scout displays in a couple of rooms in their home. Casa Loma is open to the public for a small admission fee and is well worth a visit. The home is opulent and chronicles how a wealthy family lived in their day.

Guiding Headquarters were set up in Toronto.

The first camp recorded was held near Toronto (now Mississauga ).The 1st Toronto Company has this honour and the girls had a blast! They learned camping skills and had high adventure. Their mothers were fearful for their health and safety and made daily visits to the site to check on their daughters!


Salvation Army set up Girl Guide Companies for their membership.


An Act of Parliament incorporated the Canadian Council.


In Canada, the first Brownie Pack was registered in Hanover, Ontario. Brownies, first known as Rosebuds, began in England in 1914 for the younger sisters of the Guides who wanted to belong to the organization and didn't want to wait until they were old enough to be Guides. The great war was being fought and it is understandable that Brownies were slower to start in Canada than the Guides had been..

Speaking of World War 1, the Guides did many things to aid the war effort. They rolled bandages and made surgical dressings, knit socks and scarves, delivered parcels, entertained soldiers and their families, served and cleaned up teas, worked in factories, helped in convalescent hospitals, grew vegetables and helped on farms, and collected clothing and money for war orphans in Belgium and France. One special project was collecting money to build a recreation hut in France for Canadian soldiers. The flag which flew at the hut also flew again at the Jubilee camp in Victoria.


Canada is 60 years old and celebrated its Diamond Jubilee. There were celebrations across the nation. British Columbia hosted a Dominion Camp for 300 people. It was held on the grounds of the University of Victoria. Many wonderful stories have come out of the camp. One of the VIP's at the camp was Dame Alice Godman who offered to take part in the camp by doing "something practical". She was later observed working in the kitchen area shelling peas one at a time for the next meal while still outfitted in hat, cords and gloves! A photographer was reported to have tangled with the camp Commandant and assistant. He had arrived with a movie camera early one morning and was heading toward a tent which was home to a group of Rangers from Toronto. The Commandant and her assistant, indignantly marched out of their tents clad in pajamas and house coats to confront the intruder. The Commandant breathed fire and without losing her dignity, she escorted the reporter off the site. The poor man never did have a chance to speak as Miss Mara let him know in no uncertain terms of her rage and indignation at such an intrusion! After the camp was over, one indelible memory to the few remaining girls and Guiders was an old Ford car heading off up Vancouver Island to Duncan with the driver, a passenger (Guider) who was buried beneath every sort of camping equipment imaginable stowed "from bumper to the roof" and atop this pile, a Patrol Leader who waved merrily to one and all.


Canada became a Charter member of Guiding. There were 40 counties present. The World Conference was held in Hungary. Canada had the third highest membership in the organization at that point in time!

Also, in the late 20's, there was a Guide radio show out of Toronto. This took place once a month and the Chief Commissioner spoke, there were songs sung by a group of Rangers and items of interest were covered.

the 30's

The Depression years had arrived. Guiding continued to offer happy experiences even in these dreary days. Guides collected and distributed food, clothing and fuel. In 1937, the Salvation Army signed an agreement with Girl Guides of Canada and became a part of the national organization. Up to this time, they had their own uniforms. They now wear just a badge to identify themselves as Salvation Army. National Guide Day in 1938 was assisted by the CBC who broadcast a special program. A special camp held in Rothesay, New Brunswick celebrated 30 years of Guiding in 1939. This was a year early as it should have been in 1940. Girls attended from across the country. When war broke out later that year, it was acknowledged that if the camp had not been held the previous year, it would not have taken place.

the 40's

Canadians mourned with the world the death of Lord Baden-Powell on January 8,1941.

Also in 1941, a North Bay Brownie Pack welcomed five new members. Along with their sister the Dionne quintuplets formed a Brownie Six.

Once again, the Guiding movement supported the war effort in many ways. Victory gardens were planted everywhere. There was a Wartime Emergency Service Test which any girl fifteen years or older could earn. Following the war, things slowly returned to normal. Many fathers did not return home from the war.

In 1949, Newfoundland became a part of Canada and their Guides became a part of the national organization. Special exchange camps were held with the French Guides living on St. Pierre-et-Miquelon. (just off Newfoundland) the 50's


East meets West camp was held near Ottawa. The camp was opened by Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent. The girls were taken on sight-seeing trips into the capital city.


CPFS - Companies and Packs on Foreign Soil began. Initially it was a response to military families who were posted to western Europe. Later units opened where ever there were a group of Canadian families and girls who wanted to belong to Guiding.


Canada hosted one of four Centenary World Camps to mark 100 years since BP's birth. Members could earn the BP Star.


There was a commemorative postage stamp to mark Canadian Guiding's 50th anniversary. It was a 5 stamp- the amount it cost to mail a letter in that day. There was also a "River of Gold" celebration created by planting yellow tulips across the country.


The organization was renamed Girl Guides of Canada - Guides du Canada by an Act of Parliament.


Guides francophone-canadiennes became an affiliate of Girl Guides of Canada - Guides du Canada. The French speaking girls now have their own uniform and program. Girl Guides of Canada- Guides du Canada opened its new headquarters at 50 Merton Street, in Toronto. The beautiful front doors were purchased with money raised by Rangers and Cadets. Today, you can visit the building. There are a few displays from across the country and a display case of Roberta Bondair's memorabilia.( Canada's famous female astronaut) She actively promotes Guiding and is a great supporter.


Canada celebrated its Centenary. Guiding celebrations took place across the country. A special Heritage Camp was held on Morrison and Nairne Islands located in the Saint Lawrence River. Lady BP attended. There were guests from eleven countries.


21st WAGGGS conference held in Toronto at York University. Guests came from 85 countries.


Nova Scotia hosted an International Camp on the Mira River on Cape Breton Island. Despite heavy winds and rain, the camp was a success. Campers came from 29 countries.


Pathfinder program was launched for girls 12-15 years old. The United Nation's International Year of the Child was launched. Many service projects were undertaken. Canadian Guiding began its national support of building wells in Burkino Faso (formerly Upper Volta).


Another commemorative postage stamp was issued to celebrate 75 years. A special Girl Guide rose was developed and is still sold by White Rose nurseries in Ontario.


Radical changes to the uniforms were made. Alfred Sung, a famous Canadian designer, was chosen to design the new uniforms.


Echo Valley camp, an International camp, was held in Saskatchewan. There were 2500 girls from Canada and 500 guests from 41 countries.


Sparks (first for five year olds, and later six year olds as well) was launched. In the mid-seventies, there were test programs for younger girls - known as Busy Bees in Alberta, Squirrels in Prince Edward Island, and Moonbeams in Manitoba. They were successful but when the Brownie age was lowered to six in 1979, the need for another group lessened.

Provinces were "twinned" with a developing WAGGGS country to help provide the twin country with needed support - both monetary and donated items.

More recent changes

From the 60's on, changes were made to the uniform, hats were eliminated (they still make great frisbees!), new badges were introduced - badge scarves too, programs were developed and refined (girls were actually given choices in what they would like to do), age levels were adjusted and readjusted - all in an effort to stay contemporary and to appeal to the girls of that day.

The 90's saw the first big changes to our Promise and Law - both Brownie and Guide.

Today, CPFS has been disbanded. The national International committee liaises with units located around the world. When the Canadian military finished their duties in Germany, many units closed as families returned to Canada.

The last International camp was held in Guelph, Ontario in 1993. In 1995, Canadian Guiding celebrated its 85th anniversary. There were many campfires and special events across the country.

In 1996, Canada hosted the 29th WAGGGS conference in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. There was a camp held near by for youth members.

In the 80's and 90's there was a greater emphasis on conservation, the natural environment and Guiding launched a Water for Tomorrow project. Special challenges are offered from time to time for the girls to work on.

The National Council continues to review information and listen to Guider's thoughts and ideas as we prepare to take Guiding into the new millennium.

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This page last updated August 17th, 1998