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2009: The Year in Review

Royal Visit Headlined Year

A little after 11 a.m. on November 11, 2009, His Royal Highness, Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, placed a wreath at the National War Memorial in memory of all Canadians who have died in the military or merchant navy services of Canada. Dressed in his Canadian Forces uniform—he is Colonel-in-Chief of six regiments in Canada—he joined Michaëlle Jean, the Governor General of Canada and Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Armed Forces, also resplendent in her green army uniform.

They formed the vice-regal group, with the national Silver Cross mother, the Prime Minister of Canada, the speakers of both the Commons and the Senate, the minister for Veterans Affairs, the Chief of the Defence Staff, the youth representatives and Dominion President Wilfred Edmond, to place wreaths for Canada’s fallen in all wars and missions.

It was a special moment for The Royal Canadian Legion, as his appearance and the appearance of the Governor General in an army dress uniform, were firsts for the ceremony. The most special moment, however, was reserved for the veterans groups that followed and placed their wreaths in memory of lost comrades.

The crowd of 55,000 that attended the ceremony was also a record, and, for the first time in recent memory, the sun shone brightly. It was a bright symbol that capped another year of change for the Legion.

Dominion Secretary Duane Daly retired in September and was replaced by Brad White, the former director of administration. He was replaced by Steven Clark and the newest member of the administration staff was Bill Maxwell, a retiree from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Meanwhile the committees and the departments at Dominion Command were at work for the members and Canada’s veterans.

The Veterans, Service and Seniors Committee, chaired by Dominion President Edmond, continued its advocacy for veterans. The chairman appeared before the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs to express the Legion’s strong views that the New Veterans Charter is a “living charter” which could be amended as required to ensure fair treatment for new veterans, and to note that it needed urgent improvements, especially in the economic-loss benefits area.

He attended the New Veterans Charter Advisory Group in April and October. Their recommendations were released in December and are now at The chairman sent a letter to all federal MPs to seek their support for Bill C-201 which addressed the clawback of the Canada Pension Plan from pensions given to military and RCMP members. The Legion also appeared before the committee in November to offer the Legion’s support, but unfortunately the bill was defeated in committee and was not returned to Parliament.

The Legion appeared before the Senate Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs in October and attended the Canadian Association of Gerontology meetings where the Legion participated in a forum on innovative practices for veterans.

The Service Bureau director participated in both eastern and western professional development sessions for service officers in September and October and conducted a training session for new service officers. The Service Bureau also conducted three long-term care surveyor training serials and produced and circulated the “Comments on Resolutions” green book, summing up government responses to resolutions passed at dominion convention.

While it continued to represent military and RCMP members, veterans and their families who are seeking benefits, handle requests for benevolent assistance, and present appeals and reconsiderations to the Veterans Review and Appeal Board, it continued to investigate opportunities to reach out to regular and reserve members of the military. This initiative to show that “we care” was adopted simultaneously by provincial commands and interaction has occurred between the Military Family Resource Centres, the Joint Personnel Support Unit and the Integrated Personnel Support Centre.

The Service Bureau continued to monitor the activities of the Legion housing program in 2009. Consultations were held with Veterans Affairs Canada on the renewal of a partnership agreement until March 2011.

In the spring the Membership Committee, chaired by Dominion Vice-President Paulette Cook, produced a new pamphlet and brochure listing the partners associated with the Legion’s Member Benefits Package. It could be used as a recruitment tool and complemented the RCL Needs You brochure. The committee members further introduced incentive awards for those who work so hard to improve the membership of the Legion. It developed a business card which has “See You at the Legion” printed on it and could be personalized on the back for branch and member use.

The membership section head was invited to four of the 10 provincial conventions held in 2009 to meet delegates and solve problems. In August she was invited to attend the Legion’s track and field meet to help educate people and in October she set up a membership booth at the Zoomer Media Show in Toronto that attracted more than 22,000 people.

The committee continued to promote membership renewal campaigns by advertising in Legion Magazine and recruited by strategically placing ads in periodicals aimed at serving and ex-serving members of the military and the RCMP.

In an effort to boost ordinary membership in the Legion, the membership committee continued to offer newly retired military members a free one-year membership. At the end of 2009 there were 130 people who had joined this way.

The Poppy and Remembrance Committee, under the chairmanship of Dominion Vice-President Gordon Moore, maintained the goal of promoting Remembrance to youth in 2009.

The Youth Leaders’ Pilgrimage of Remembrance to Europe was conducted in July with the chairman as the Head of Delegation. There were a total of 31 pilgrims who gained a solemn respect and a greater appreciation for the Canadians who sacrificed their lives for Canada.

The annual literary and poster contests saw more than 100,000 student participants. The national senior category winners were: Sam Loewen, Lethbridge, Alta. (colour poster); Natalie Lloyd, Waterloo, Ont. (black and white poster); Stephanie Adams, Newport, N.S. (essay); and Hailey Cervo, Nobleford, Alta. (poem). The winners travelled to Ottawa to participate in the National Remembrance Day Ceremony.

The Outstanding Cadets of the Year who also travelled to Ottawa and served as wreath bearers were army cadet Warrant Officer Maxime D. Charron, Victoriaville, Que.; sea cadet Petty Officer First Class Anastasia Burtnick, Winnipeg; and air cadet Flight Sergeant Jonah Todd, Whitehorse, Yukon.

Della Morley of East St. Paul, Man., was named as the national Silver Cross mother for 2009-2010. She is the mother of the late Corporal Keith Morley who was killed in Afghanistan in 2006. She placed a wreath at the national ceremony on behalf of all mothers in Canada who have lost children in wars and conflicts.

The committee considered 83 requests for the use of the poppy image and several special use expenditures for Poppy Trust Funds. Once again, the Legion was working with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade to distribute poppies to Canadian foreign missions and military deployments worldwide.

The two Canadian Football League semifinal games in Hamilton and Calgary had Legion colour parties present and poppies were distributed.

The Defence Committee, under the chairmanship of Lou Cuppens until he resigned at year end, continued to maintain a strong presence within the defence community through its membership in the Council of Defence Associations. As a result, the Army Council and Land Forces Atlantic Area were given Legion briefings.

Post-deployment care of military personnel in concert with the Veterans, Service and Seniors Committee was at the forefront of committee business. It identified needs and made recommendations to the Dominion Executive Council on how to promote Legion assistance.

The committee also addressed and monitored issues of concern to the military community such as service recognition, criteria for the presentation of the Sacrifice Medal, changes to the Memorial (Silver) Cross presentation criteria, and the varied provincial requirements for the issue of veterans’ licence plates.

The Ritual and Awards Committee, chaired by George O’Dair, authorized the introduction of a Ladies Auxiliary Life Membership Plaque and improved the design of the Legion’s command and branch banners. It introduced parade commander and colour sergeant bars to be worn on Legion medals and revised the Ritual and Insignia Manual as well as the National Media and Friendship Awards.

During the year the committee authorized the Supply Department to produce and sell a Legionnaire of the Year award for presentation at the branch or command level with no higher levels of approval required. It also reviewed five resolutions to the dominion convention in 2010 by the year’s end. The committee approved the award of 99 Meritorious Service Medals, 20 Meritorious Service Awards and 38 Palm Leaves to the MSM or MSA.

The committee continued to support the Dominion Executive Council decision that only the Legion banner should be dipped as it is consistent with the practices and policies of the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Canadian Forces.

The Public Relations Committee, chaired by Dominion Vice-President Erl Kish, continued to improve the Legion’s image nationally. It reviewed the plans made for 2009 and developed a plan for 2010 to 2012. It conducted a branch survey, which was to be tabulated in time for the DEC meeting in February.

The committee also considered other proposals to the Legion that included the national raffle of a motorcycle built especially for the Legion, the deployment of Canadian flags in all schoolrooms across Canada and the endorsement of a television program that would highlight veterans’ stories. The first was not feasible, the second was put on the Legion’s bulletin board as an idea for branches to pursue and the third was not endorsed but was supported in principle. Work on a possible video to support the Membership Committee also began.

The committee continued its support of the Canadian Forces with members attending all of the sport championships, the Nijmegen Marches and the Show Tour to Afghanistan. It continued with its radio public service announcement program in support of the Poppy and Remembrance Committee and has made plans to reintroduce its TV ads in the future in support of the Membership and Poppy and Remembrance committees.

In the Communications Department the work on computer upgrades, the addition of needed equipment and the establishment of a new website continued. Statistics showed that newer material added since 2008 increased the site’s use by tenfold in 2009. The RCL Troop Morale Fund saw an influx of cash from branches and Canadians in general. By the end of the year $686,150 had been collected since the fund began and 236,000 certificates had been delivered.

The Constitution and Laws Committee, chaired by former Service Bureau director Jim Rycroft, continued its work of updating the General Bylaws and providing advice on legal matters to the Dominion Executive Council when required. The Veterans Unity Committee, under the chairmanship of Honorary Grand President Charles Belzile, reached an agreement with the other veterans groups that they would collaborate on issues of advocacy for veterans without losing the right of self representation.

The RCEL (Canada) Committee, under the chairmanship of Dominion President Edmond, continued its work of providing assistance to the Caribbean region veterans through their local Legions or equivalent. In 2009 there were 184 veterans and 130 widows assisted with $279,070 and $243,435 in donations that were received from the 10 provincial conventions that were held. In April the Dominion President and the former Dominion Secretary attended the Standing Committee on Welfare Programs (SCOWP) meeting in London, England, and made a further commitment of funds from Canada for medical and administrative assistance grants to the Caribbean region.

The Sports Committee, chaired by Dominion First Vice-President Patricia Varga, continued to conduct championships in cribbage, darts and curling as well as the Legion Canadian Youth Track and Field Championships.

The cribbage championship hosted by Aldergrove, B.C., Branch saw James Kay of Port Coquitlam, B.C., Branch emerge as the singles winner while the doubles were won by Richard and Joan Thibodeau of Miscouche, P.E.I., Branch. They also won the team championship by adding Eldon Doucette and Sherry Wright to the roster.

The dart championships were hosted by Men of Vision Branch in Cochrane, Alta., with the singles title going to John Verwey from Blythe, Ont., Branch and the doubles title going to Tim Schryer and Tom Van Hoof of Sault St. Marie, Ont., Branch. The team title was won by LaSalle, Que., Branch comprised of Sebastien Gagnon, Gerald Hull, Jason Hurley and Kevin MacArthur.

The curling championship was hosted by Maple Ridge, B.C., Branch and was won by Nutana Branch in Saskatoon.

The National Youth Athletic Championships again took place at the University of Sherbrooke in Quebec with 300 Legion sponsored athletes and 250 open category athletes in attendance for the two-day meet. For the Legion athletes there continued to be the athletic camp conducted by Athletics Canada, the practice sessions, social activities and the meet itself.

The opening ceremonies saw Luc Blanchard, president of the Club Athletics in Sherbrooke open the meet as its special guest. During the opening assembly a film on D-Day was played and seven D-Day veterans from the local area were in attendance. The closing banquet had Cpl. Jody Mitic, a double amputee Afghanistan veteran, as its guest speaker and special awards were given to Gilles Lussier, the Local Arrangements Committee chairman for two years in a row, and Bruce Pirnie of Athletics Canada for their services to the event.

The meet itself was held in the state-of-the-art facility at the university under the direction of Daniel Quirion. Six Legion records were broken, five by Legion athletes, and the top Legion male and female athletes, who received trophies form Encounters with Canada, were Steven Ajayi and Sarah Moss from Ontario Command. They also received tuition and transport for the EWC week-long youth forum in Ottawa. This represented the first in a series of complimentary exchanges between the track and field championships and EWC.

In the Supply Department more than 32,000 shipments, including over 16,000 catalogue orders and 2,000 bulk poppy orders, were handled. The year saw the addition of several new product lines including a very popular Dutch commemorative ceremony candle. The inclusion of catalogue pages dedicated to acknowledging Member Benefits Partners and Forms in the branch operations section of the catalogues was well received.

Sales continued to exceed what was traditionally achieved. The year’s sales, combined with controlled costs, again allowed the supply department to provide a significant share to provincial commands. At both the provincial and dominion level the gains achieved supported the important service work performed by the many thousands of Legion volunteers that reminds our veterans, their families, and our communities that, “We Care.”

The year 2009 was a year of change for the Legion, most of it behind the scenes. While operations continued as normal, the Legion continued to do them smarter and cheaper than ever before.


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