Girl Guides Canada takes Okanagan society to court over lakefront campsite | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Girl Guides Canada takes Okanagan society to court over lakefront campsite

Girl Guides Canada is taking a South Okanagan Girl Guide society to court over ownership of a 10-acre campsite.
Image Credit: FACEBOOK/Camp Mewata

Girl Guides of Canada is staking its claim over a 10-acre campsite along the Okanagan lakefront, looking to the courts to take ownership from the regional society hosting the camps.

For 60 years, the South Okanagan Girl Guide Campsite Society has been in charge of Camp Mewata, but the national body is claiming to be the true owner of the site.

The national organization filed a notice of claim in BC Supreme Court on Sept. 20, claiming the camp was held in trust since 1960. It was always intended to be passed on to the national organization, according to its claim.

The South Okanagan Girl Guide society hasn't yet responded in court, but its chairperson said the society hasn't yet seen evidence that it truly belongs to the national body.

Chairperson Marjorie Brims said she hasn't seen the notice of claim yet and could not comment until discussing the claim with legal counsel.

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In 1958, the Girl Guides South Okanagan Division started fundraising for Camp Mewata, but wasn't able to come up with the funds. It then created the non-profit society to seek a loan for the property, which was incorporated in 1959, according to the Girl Guides of Canada claim.

The society's purpose was to acquire and develop property "for Girl Guides purposes."

The land title was transferred to the South Okanagan society in 1960, but the national organization said it was supposed to be given over once the loan was paid.

By 1967 the loan was paid, but the transfer was "delayed" while the society took out another loan for capital projects and there were concerns in the 1980s that a transfer could result in "unfavourable" public access to the waterfront.

The national body has been trying to restart its attempts to take over ownership of the 10 acre campsite since 2021, but the society has denied the land was held in trust, claiming that it owns the property.

The society has operated under the Girl Guides Monashee division since 2006. On its website it says Camp Mewata is not owned by Girl Guides Canada, but the national body is expected to bring evidence to a judge to decide who is the rightful owner of the lakefront camp.

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Brims said the camp, which is just a few kilometres north of Lake Okanagan Resort along Westside Road, has hosted thousands of nights of camping for young girls.

"It's what we call a wilderness camp and we believe there's very few places like that for young girls to go," she said. "The motto is leave it better than you found it."

Except for refrigerators, there's almost no power to the campsite and no dormitories, meant to give Girl Guides an opportunity to learn wilderness skills.

"There's lots of skills they're not getting in very many places in their regular life, and to be honest that's why most volunteers continue to put the effort in that we do. We just think it's a priceless resource," she said. "We've been able to run it that way for 60 years."

The property at 3523 Westside Road is valued at $2.6 million, but almost all of that tax value is based on the land itself, rather than the buildings, according to BC Assessment.

Recent wildfire damage will likely affect that value, but Brims said the McDougall Creek wildfire only affected about a third of the property. 

The South Okanagan Girl Guides society hasn't responded in court and the national body's claims haven't been proven.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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