The Conservative Party of Canada is under fire for the use of members of Scouts Canada in their latest photo op and campaign promise.
Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited the North Island last week for a few by-invitation-only appearances, one of them featuring an announcement of possible funding for the Pacific Salmon Foundation if his party is re-elected.
During this announcement, three members of Scouts Canada, in their uniforms, could be seen off to one side of the podium, which caused the organization to respond on social media with the Tweet, “Just a reminder that Scouts Canada members are not permitted to attend political events in uniform, we are non-partisan!”
According to CTV News, the Scouts Canada leader who committed the troops for use in the photo opportunity was Victoria’s Bruce Hallsor, a Conservative supporter who has co-chaired Conservative campaigns in the past.
The Scouts’ participation was not sanctioned by the organization, according to Scouts Canada spokesperson John Petitti.
It’s not the first time Hallsor greeted Harper with a scout troop.
He also gathered his Scouts for a meeting at a Shell Aerocentre in North Saanich in January, 2014.
Following Friday’s appearance by the Scouts at McIvor Lake, the uproar on social media was swift and scathing, with many accusing the Conservatives of using the children as props and calling for an official apology.
Alistair Taylor, group commissioner for the local chapter of Scouts Canada, First Willow Point Scouts (full disclosure, also the editor of this publication), confirmed his chapter was approached, and says they were misinformed as to what the children’s participation in the event would be.
“This was presented to us as an opportunity to meet the Prime Minister and go for a hike,” he said. “There was no mention of a policy announcement or photo opportunity.”
Halsor has said he would not have had the Scouts there in uniform had he known about the Scouts’ “non-partisan” policy against doing so. Scouts Canada has said it is investigating “how the appearance came about.”