The lack of movement on legislation which would improve the New Veterans Charter and the threat of the bill being lost should an election be called dominated discussions when members of Dominion Executive Council (DEC) met in Ottawa Feb. 26-27.
Dominion President Pat Varga told DEC members it was imperative that these measures are put into place, even though the Legion sees the improvements as only a first step. She asked DEC for its input.
DEC responded by authorizing letters to be sent to Veterans Affairs Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn as well as all members of Parliament. In addition, a draft letter was prepared for an all-branch mailing that Legion members and their families could use to write to their MPs, urging them to pass the legislation known as Bill C-55.
“Even though we see Bill C-55 as an interim measure, disabled veterans and their families cannot benefit from these improvements until the proposed legislation is approved by Parliament and the Senate and then receives royal assent. Time is of the essence,” wrote Varga in the letter to all branches.
Under Bill C-55, an injured veteran receiving a lump-sum disability award will have the option of taking the lump sum, having it spread out in equal monthly payments over a chosen period of time or a combination of partial sum and the rest spread out in annual installments (Changes Tabled For New Veterans Charter, January/February).
The earnings loss benefit of 75 per cent of pre-release salary is raised to a minimum of $40,000 a year while an injured veteran is in rehabilitation or until age 65 if he or she is unable to work. There is a tax-free monthly benefit for those who have completed a rehabilitation program, are deemed employable, but have not been able to find work or have a low-paying job.
In the end, the bill received royal assent on March 24 and the election was called on March 26.
Grand President Larry Murray welcomed members of DEC at the beginning and presented Dominion Command with a map of the Bedford Basin showing the positions of the ships in the fleet review by the Queen last June (A Royal Review, September/October). The map was a gift from the navy in appreciation of the Legion’s sponsorship of the review.
Shortly afterwards, Royal Canadian Mounted Police Commissioner William Elliott was inducted as an honorary dominion vice-president. Elliott spoke of his father’s involvement with the Legion’s Belleville Branch in Ontario. “One of my proudest moments was when I was sworn in as commissioner of the RCMP. We used a bible which had been given to my mother by the Legion after my father died,” he said.
In other business, Dominion Command Poppy and Remembrance Committee Chairman Tom Eagles also reported delays in legislation. His concern was legislation which would remove the harmonized sales tax (HST) from poppies and wreaths purchased from suppliers.
“In October 2010, several announcements were made regarding the exemption of HST on Dominion Command’s purchases of poppies and poppy wreaths. While the announcements were certainly welcomed, no action beyond the announcements has occurred,” the report said. “Until the bill is tabled and passed by Parliament, Dominion Command is required to adhere to the current federal Excise Tax Act that requires us to pay HST on the purchases of poppies and poppy wreaths.”
The changes to the Excise Act were included in the budget papers presented by the government on March 22. However, they were lost once the election was called.
Eagles also reported that there were severe poppy shortages in the 2010 campaign caused by the supplier. Dominion Secretary Brad White said that the Legion commands and branches worked together to ensure the success of the campaign and measures have been put in place to ensure that the supplier does not have a recurrence of the problems.
Membership Committee Chairman George O’Dair said the Legion had reached 98.54 per cent of is paid membership goal in 2010. “Although this resulted in an overall loss of 5,083 members, the percentage totals have increased by 1.86 per cent over the previous year,” said his report. “The loss is considerably less than in the previous two years.”
White said later in his Dominion Secretary’s report, “This has been one of our best membership years ever and I would like to commend all levels of the Legion for these great results.”
O’Dair announced that the 2010 Membership Achievement Award went to Alberta-Northwest Territories Command which ended the year with 99.95 per cent of its 2009 paid membership total. The 2010 Renewal Award went to Newfoundland and Labrador Command with an increase of 1.84 per cent over 2009. Newfoundland and Labrador also won the Early Bird Award with a gain of 9.48 per cent over the previous year.
Curling was the subject of considerable debate during the two-day meeting. Sports Committee Chairman Dave Flannigan announced, “The committee was informed that New Brunswick Command had cancelled curling as a provincial sport and would no longer be sending a team to the national tournament. The total of commands participating [in the Dominion Command Curling Championship] has now been reduced to seven.”
Concern was raised as to whether the sport was truly a national event any more. The committee has sent an all-branch mailing informing branches of the state of curling in the Legion and asking for feedback.
On the positive side, Flannigan announced that, following the resolution passed at the 2010 dominion convention, the committee has instituted eight-ball pool as a dominion member participation sport. The first championships will be held in February 2012. Rules have been established for inclusion in the Sports Manual and a call to host the first tournament has gone out to branches in the Western Region which consists of Saskatchewan, Alberta–Northwest Territories and British Columbia/Yukon commands.
The 2011 National Track and Field Championships will again be held in Ottawa, and Charlottetown has been awarded the athletic camp for 2012.
Public Relations Committee Chairman Gordon Moore said the Legion’s sponsorship of the Canadian Forces Sports Championships continues to be well received. He especially thanked the Legion members who were able to attend the events and present trophies on the Legion‘s behalf.
Ritual and Awards Committee Chairman Ron Goebel reported that, in accordance with dominion convention resolution, the Cadet Medal of Excellence could now be worn with Legion medals. President Varga explained that the intent behind the resolution was to encourage young people who have been in the cadets to join the Legion when they come of age.
Grand President Murray reported on the Veterans Consultations Committee in which the Legion discusses common issues with 15 other veterans organizations. He said that the organizations had many areas of concern in common. He also noted that none of the organizations had shown support for the Canadian Veterans National Day of Protest that had been organized for Nov. 6.
Dominion President Varga established the Focus on the Future Committee directly after the dominion convention. She gave a presentation on the committee’s deliberations so far. The group had been indentifying the Legion’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
She presented a new mission statement which was accepted by DEC. That statements reads: “Our mission is to serve veterans which includes currently serving military and RCMP and their families, to promote remembrance and service to our communities and our country.” The intention of the mission statement is to emphasize that the Legion sees those who are still serving in the military as veterans, as are members of the RCMP.
A vision statement was also accepted which reads: “Our vision is to be the most highly respected Canadian volunteer service organization and to serve veterans which includes currently serving members and the RCMP and their families.”
The committee is being assisted in its deliberations by Vicky Kyriaco who has been hired by Dominion Command as a marketing and change management specialist. Kyriaco also presented an interim marketing plan, making suggestions for improving the ongoing activities at Dominion Command. She has been meeting with department heads and committee secretaries to help identify new opportunities within the existing budget. The objective of the marketing study is to consolidate marketing activities into one cohesive plan and to create some consistency in message through branding and advertising.
Varga also reported on the Royal Commonwealth Ex-Service League saying there is still much work to be done for the veterans in the Caribbean. She noted that given the small number of veterans left on St. Kitts and Nevis, this year’s visit to the country may be one of the last.
In his report, Dominion Treasurer Mike Cook reported that Dominion Command had had a good year with revenues earned having done better than what was budgeted.
The largest improvement had been in the per capita tax revenue which he attributed to the letter that was mailed out in the spring of 2010 to all members who had not renewed, resulting in receiving $287,000 more than the budget expectation.
The Supply Department operations provided for a net surplus of $281,261. It also produced a contribution to provincial command programs of $93,754. A new webstore is expected to come online this spring which should result in higher sales.
In command reports, B.C./Yukon Command President Dave Sinclair reported the command had donated $1 million to create a chair of military transition in the Department of Psychology at the University of British Columbia. The command also funds a chair of family practice at
UBC which has been responsible for the placement of approximately 200 general practitioners in rural B.C.
Ontario Command President Ed Pigeau reported that the command had funded a memorial forest in Petawawa around a memorial dedicated to those who have fallen while serving in Afghanistan (Journal, March/April).
“It is a place where members of the base can go to unwind and see, and smell and touch those things which we, as Canadians, are so grateful for,” he reported.
Quebec Command President Robert Groulx reported that Veterans Affairs Canada is interviewing all members leaving the Canadian Forces in six different areas in the province. Those conducting the interviews are telling the servicemen and women about Legion services and have been distributing about 80 membership kits a month.
Nova Scotia/Nunavut Command President Les Nash reported that the Nova Scotia government has established a Legion Capital Assistance Program to assist branches in upgrading their facilities. The matching grants will cover up to 50 per cent of the total cost. So far 15 branches have received grants ranging from $2,000 to $10,000.
Also Heard At DEC
The following news was also presented during the Feb. 26-27 meeting of Dominion Executive Council.
RCL Troop Morale Fund:
The campaign which provides coffee and doughnuts to Canadian Forces personnel serving in Afghanistan will be extended until the mission is officially terminated.
Support Our Troops pins:
DEC approved the continuation of wearing the We Support Our Troops pin on the Legion blazer. Permission is to be reviewed on an annual basis.
The Legion Housing Centre of Excellence ceased operation in March 2011 and an updated housing inventory in electronic and hard-copy formats was to be transferred to the provincial commands.
Dominion of Canada Rifle Association: A grant of $8,000 was made in support of the association’s winter shooting program for cadets.
Dominion Command has developed a database from its files of the dates when each branch received its charter. This can be used to automatically flag significant anniversaries such as 50th, 75th and 80th. The dominion president would then send a congratulatory letter.
New and cancelled charters:
Nineteen charters have been cancelled, five in Manitoba–Northwestern Ontario Command, three each in Alberta–Northwest Territories, Saskatchewan and Ontario, two each in British Columbia/Yukon and Nova Scotia/Nunavut and one in New Brunswick. A new charter was issued to British Columbia/Yukon Command for Alberni Valley Branch in Port Alberni. This is an amalgamation of Alberni District and Somass branches.