PHOTOS: DAN BLACK
While The Royal Canadian Legion conducts a major review on governance and structure, Newfoundland and Labrador Command has gone on record to say it would oppose “any and all forms of amalgamation” that involve the command.
Newfoundland and Labrador Command’s opposition took the form of a resolution endorsed by the 81 accredited delegates attending the 60th convention in Corner Brook, Aug. 11-15. The resolution also states that “before any amalgamation agreement is consented to, even if by regulation approval at dominion convention, that all Legion members of Newfoundland and Labrador Command be polled to establish their views and if they still wish to remain as members of The Royal Canadian Legion.”
In February, the Dominion Executive Council decided to establish the RCL Commission on Governance, Representation and Command Structure. When the commission was announced, Dominion President Jack Frost explained that the Legion’s current form of governance and structure has not been seriously reviewed in any substantive way since the organization was founded 81 years ago (Editorial, July/August).
During visits to provincial commands, the Dominion President raised the issue of restructuring, in particular the need for command amalgamation. He pointed out during those visits that under the current structure, the Legion has some commands that are very small and unfortunately do not have the resources of larger commands to adequately manage and support their members and their branches.
One of the commission’s tasks will be to consider the issue of command structure and responsibilities. Currently, there are 10 provincial commands representing Legionnaires across the country. The commission, which has been instructed to operate at arms-length from Dominion Command and staff at provincial commands, is expected to report back to DEC with recommendations in February 2008.
Dominion President Jack Frost and Dominion Secretary Duane Daly were both guests at the Newfoundland and Labrador Command convention held in Corner Brook Branch. During discussion of the resolution, delegate Eric Janes of Sgt. Levi Hollett Memorial Branch in Blaketown asked the Dominion President to explain how Legionnaires in Newfoundland and Labrador could benefit from amalgamation when the command is “such a viable command.”
As an example of that viability, Janes said that during the first day of convention business delegates raised approximately $7,000 for the Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League. “Yes, we may struggle as a command, but as we saw with the RCEL donations, we also resolve things–we come together when it is needed.”
Other speakers supported the resolution by focusing on Newfoundland and Labrador’s identity as well as its military history, in particular its ties to the Royal Newfoundland Regiment and the World War I Battle of Beaumont Hamel. First Vice-President David Flannigan said he had just returned from an incredible pilgrimage to Beaumont Hamel–a place he said means more to Newfoundlanders than anything else. He first asked if a committee has been formed to examine amalgamation, and whether the committee had any members from Newfoundland.
The Dominion President described the task facing the DEC-appointed commission, noting it has been formed to look at all aspects of governance within The Royal Canadian Legion–that it will examine the “whole structure.” He said its five representatives are from British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
At that point, Flannigan responded: “I rest my case.”
The Dominion President explained that nothing has been decided or “carved in stone” on the subject of amalgamation. “I want to make one thing perfectly clear. When I became president, and all through my Legion career, I never tried to hide anything. I want things up and above board. And from what I hear it sounds to me that everybody here thinks that it is a foregone conclusion, that I think amalgamation is the be all and end all. I assure you comrades, my intention is to put it (the issues of governance and structure) on the table–up front–where everybody can look at it….”
He said some provincial commands are in financial difficulty, and sooner or later reality will dictate that they will either be forced–not by Dominion Command–but for financial reasons to amalgamate, or forced to become a zone.”
He said a document was put out two years ago stipulating the services a provincial command must offer. “I will tell you right now that not all commands are fulfilling those obligations….”
In elections, First Vice David Flannigan of Labrador City Branch was acclaimed president. Eugene Breen of Dermot Lee Memorial Branch in Riverhead defeated Peter Winsor of Pleasantville Branch in St. John’s for first vice. Elected second vice was Stephen Pottle of Stephenville Branch. Also vying for that position were Max Peddle of Happy Valley Branch in Happy Valley/Goose Bay, and Ross Petten of Bay Roberts Branch.
Rounding out the provincial executive–through acclamation–are: Honorary Treasurer William Titford of Cpl. Matthew Brazil Memorial Branch in Spaniard’s Bay, and Chairman Joseph Kennedy of Grand Falls Branch in Grand Falls/ Windsor.
In his report to convention, outgoing President Calvin Crane stated that “if he has learned one thing over the past two years, it’s that Newfoundland and Labrador has some of the best Legion branches and presidents, and membership–anywhere across this nation. They have proven their worth many times over.”
He said when command required financial assistance early in his tenure, he telephoned each branch president–on the advice of the command’s Provincial Executive Council. “Now I must tell you that some of these branches were having difficulty themselves, but each and every one of them listened to me, and made a financial contribution to provincial command…. No one hesitated to help. It was absolutely fantastic to see and feel the cooperation.”
He explained that command has emerged from that financial hardship–and is back on track. “It was certainly not an easy time for command, but having gone through this exercise it has made us much stronger.”
Delegates also approved a number of resolutions. Three focused on military matters. One requests National Defence Headquarters to “designate Afghanistan as a battle honour to be emblazoned on the colours of regiments that have battalions or other sub units deployed in that theatre.” Another requests National Defence to authorize the emblazonment of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment’s colours, battle honours–reflecting pre 1914-1918 engagements. The third is aimed at those who are serving or have served in Afghanistan, stating that the command assures “our comrades of the Canadian Forces of our complete support in all their undertakings and extend to them our best wishes for their continued success as they maintain Canada’s position in the esteem of the free world.”
Delegates, guests and observers gathered in the branch’s spacious hall where they had a photo taken with everyone wearing red or blue “support our troops” shirts. The photo has since been sent to CF personnel in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Delegates also showed their support for the CF in Afghanistan by donating $2,597 to the RCL Troop Morale Fund.
Krista Locke, Atlantic regional director general for Veterans Affairs Canada, noted that VAC provides services and benefits to more than 225,000 clients across Canada, including approximately 4,700 clients in Newfoundland and Labrador. “This includes meeting the needs of a new generation of veterans and continuing to improve programs for war-service veterans. At the same time, we are also here to help guard the memory of our veterans and ensure that respect for their service and sacrifice is passed on to future generations.”
Crane, chairman of the command’s Veterans, Seniors and Services Committee, noted that over the past several years he has been chairman of the Action Committee at the Caribou Memorial Veterans Pavilion in St. John’s. He reported that renovations are being completed on the facility, but construction of an addition has “once again” been delayed. “This has been a serious bone of contention…. We will continue to work with the minister and his staff and Eastern Health to get this problem rectified.”
During his visit to Corner Brook, the Dominion President–accompanied by the Dominion Secretary and Corner Brook Branch President Eric Fitzgerald–visited the O’Connell Centre where they toured the facility and met with veterans and staff.
Honorary Treasurer Bill Titford reported on the command’s finances, noting that while the command recorded a deficit in 2005, it recorded a surplus in 2006, thanks to a more businesslike approach.
In his Ways and Means Committee report, Titford reviewed the approaches taken during the last two years and put forward a committee proposal to create a new fundraising venture for command in the form of a We Will Remember Them calendar. The calendars, which sell for $20–of which $17 will be returned to command and $3 to the branch–feature photographs of war memorials in Newfoundland and Labrador.
In other business, delegates agreed to launch a pilot project for 2007-2008 aimed at exposing Newfoundland and Labrador senior high school students to more provincial military history. Titled the Military Remembrance Challenge, the project will commence in District 2, with the hope of becoming province-wide in 2008-2009. Also on the remembrance theme, delegates applauded a presentation by George Brown of New Harbour, Nfld., describing his participation in the 2007 Royal Canadian Legion Youth Leaders Pilgrimage of Remembrance.
On Sunday evening, prior to business sessions and following a colourful parade and poignant wreath-placing ceremony at the local cenotaph–the Corner Brook Arts and Culture Centre was the venue for the convention’s opening ceremony. Warm greetings were extended by the City of Corner Brook, the provincial and federal governments. Past Command President Hedley Smith received the Honorary President Scroll, and those in attendance were also treated to music and song.
Smith was guest speaker at the convention’s banquet, held at the branch. It included a toast to the Queen and to absent comrades. The special guest was Newfoundland and Labrador Lieutenant-Governor Edward Roberts who spoke about the importance of the province’s military history.
In his acceptance speech, incoming president David Flannigan explained that the inspiration he received years ago to pursue a position on Provincial Executive Council came from Hedley Smith. He thanked him for his help over the years, and the service he has given to the Legion. “My mandate and the Provincial Executive Council mandate for next two years is going to be centred on one goal–and that is membership. He challenged every member of the Legion in the command to come up with one new member. “If we come up with one member each, our membership will double, and I will guarantee you that if we do that, amalgamation will never be spoken about in Newfoundland and Labrador again.”