Duane Daly retired from the position of Dominion Secretary on Sept. 14, 2009.
Daly served for 33 years in the military. During his 14 years as Dominion Secretary he worked to define The Royal Canadian Legion as an ex-services organization, a place for our military to come and feel the camaraderie that they did in the forces.
Daly, like his father before him, is a military man. He spent his career in the Air Force and retired with the rank of brigadier-general. In 1995, he was hired by the Legion as Dominion Secretary. During those years as chief administrator of Dominion Command he served on the Advisory Committee of the Canadian War Museum, as a member of the Board of Directors of The Friends of the War Museum, as a vice-president of the Valiants Foundations, and as a director of the RCAF Benevolent Fund and the Canadian Battlefields Foundation.
Just as active in his private life, he has served on provincial councils of both the United Way and St. John Ambulance. Daly is an officer in The Venerable Order of St. John and a recipient of the government’s Meritorious Service Medal.
Daly was not long in the job of Dominion Secretary before commencing the planning for a string of projects intended to promote the Legion and its commitment to remembrance. The first three projects were tied to the millennium and were meant to re-energize the Legion: The Two Minute Wave of Silence, The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and The Royal Order of Remembrance.
“The projects were to make remembrance a substantial, visible thing for the public, rather than (only) giving dollars at November 11,” said Daly. “(These) major projects put our stamp on the street where Canadians would see the Legion in a different light as a major force for remembrance.”
These millennium projects seemed to resound across the country. Private citizens and corporations observed the Two-Minute Wave of Silence; and every July 1 since the tomb was installed at the National War Memorial it has become a tradition to cover the granite sarcophagus with small Canadian flags. The Royal Order of Remembrance was a means for the government to recognize those individuals who acted as guardians of remembrance. Though never implemented as first envisioned, it led to the establishment of the Minister of Veterans Affairs’ Commendation which has been awarded to many Canadians including Daly.
Under Daly’s management, the Legion was also a force behind the scenes to have 2005 declared The Year of the Veteran and the following year the Legion gave its support and donated funding to The Valiants Memorial. This project featured a collection of 14 statues and busts of military leaders clustered in close proximity to the National War Memorial.
There have been a number of administrative changes during Daly’s mandate as the longest serving Dominion Secretary. Staffing levels were cut to 50 from a high of close to 70, but perhaps the most evident change was the construction of a new headquarters in Kanata, a suburb on the west side of Ottawa. In September 2006, the staff at Dominion Command moved into the $4.5 million building. The property and the construction were financed primarily through the sale of the old headquarters.
In addition, a profitable new centralized supply system was implemented in 2004, and warehousing became available at the new headquarters. A few months after settling in the new building the nearby overpass was dedicated as Valour Bridge. Sixteen plaques that chronicle the important battles and campaigns in Canadian military history were added to the structure.
Daly’s tenure at the Legion was busy with new projects but was also marked by declining membership. Nevertheless, Daly remains optimistic about the future. “Although our membership is down, I think The Legion today is more structurally sound than it was in 1995.”
According to Daly, The Legion is making progress. “Declining membership is a reality. There’s nothing wrong with declining membership per se…it isn’t because we are doing things wrong. What we’ve done over the last 10 years is a lot of things right.
“We have really, really turned a page in trying to recapture our roots as an ex-service organization,” said Daly. “We’ve really started to pay tribute to those who are serving.”
And that is at the crux of what Daly has believed for the last 14 years—that the Legion needs to “recapture our roots as an ex-service organization.”
“More soldiers, sailors and airmen are realizing that the Legion really is putting its money where its mouth is in trying to support the troops,” he explains. “We’re doing a lot of things (but they don’t all) translate into immediate membership.”
Daly also wants Canadian Forces members to be clear about what the Legion represents. “We are slowly trying to rebuild that impression for them that, ‘yes we are there for you, we are one of you.’ And the message we are trying to make is that later on when you do finish your military life, although that door is closing, but another one is opening for you at the Legion.”
In his retirement, Daly plans to be as busy as he has been throughout his career and will continue to promote the Legion and remembrance. Now 67, he and his wife, Sharon, will travel and visit their grandchildren. They have three sons, two in the air force and the third with the Nova Scotia public service.