Girl Guides of Canada plans to rename Brownies, saying it has heard from several current and former members that the name has caused them personal harm.
CEO Jill Zelmanovits says they are changing the name to further remove barriers to belonging for racialized girls and women.
"It is clear that this change is the right thing to do — Girl Guides cannot be represented by a term that causes any girl harm,” said Zelmanovits in a statement Tuesday.
“Our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion at Girl Guides calls on us to listen to the lived experiences of racialized girls and take action to safeguard these commitments,” she said. “It’s imperative that no part of Guiding causes harm to the girls we serve."
Brownies, the branch of Girl Guides for girls ages seven and eight, teaches outdoor safety, camping fundamentals, gardening, building with tools and conflict management while fostering healthy friendships.
Zelmanovits said in an interview that contention with the name was brought to the organization's attention early in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some members said they would skip Brownies or join Girl Guides when they turned nine to avoid being part of the branch, she said.
The organization said it consulted with racialized members to come up with two possible new names.
It plans to announce the new name in January with the change taking effect in September 2023.
Zelmanovits said a contest is also to be held for members to submit art that would be featured in a new logo.
Founded in 1910, Girl Guides of Canada has taken steps to be more inclusive in recent years by allowing transgender girls to participate in the program in 2015 and administering new T-shirt uniforms in 2019.
Zelmanovits said many women who were Brownies may feel their memories are being impacted by the name change.
"I was a leader of this branch, so I fully get all the magic that happens and none of that is changing," she said.
"The only thing that's changing is the name. And what we're hoping is that the change will actually mean that more girls will be able to create the memories that so many women across Canada hold so close to their hearts."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 15, 2022.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Angela Amato, The Canadian Press