A new Scouts Canada troop in Ottawa is jumping on a trend to diversify its programming — offering it in English, French and Arabic — as the century-old organization tries to attract new recruits.
On Sunday, 11-year-old Tarek Rassi took the Scout oath alongside dozens of other young boys and girls.
"It made me feel like actually a Scout, you know," he said, grinning from ear to ear. "It just makes me feel good, it makes me feel special,"
The new troop includes 51 new Scouts from across the city, along with 13 adult leaders.
It's the first troop for the Saints Peter and Paul Melkite Catholic Church in east Ottawa, whose congregation traces its roots to the Middle East, including Lebanon, Iraq and Syria, and the first time Scouts Canada has teamed up with the Melkite denomination.
"Being part of Scouts Canada will help them integrate into the community. We have newcomers as well, so that will bring them all together without exceptions," said the troop's leader Joseph El Hajj.
Scouts Canada has faced declining membership but has been trying to revamp its programs in recent years.
"We want different members of the community, new Canadians, people of different faiths to really feel that scouting is a place to belong," said national youth commissioner Caitlyn Piton, just one of a handful of national Scouts Canada officials on hand for Sunday's ceremony.
The organization said membership numbers are on the rise in the city, largely in part to this new troop.