The Legion comes together in an
ancient place to chart a new way forward
(Photography by Adam Day & Jennifer Morse)
In early June, delegates from across the country gathered in St. John’s, N.L., as one tribe, determined to work together to plot a strong future for The Royal Canadian Legion.
This was the 46th Dominion Convention, and it took place June 11-14, right in the heart of one of Canada’s oldest settlements. This island’s long history—St. John’s was first discovered in the late 1400s—became a fitting symbol of the convention itself. While Newfoundland wasn’t always a part of Canada, it became so, and loyally, so that now it is fully a part of the greater tribe of Canadians.
Just as it was at this convention, where beyond all the business and reports, a greater sense of unity emerged. New officers were elected. A new special section was enshrined. Resolutions were passed. And harmony was achieved.
While the official motto of the convention was, “Looking back to see ahead,” the unofficial theme of the convention arose spontaneously from speeches given by three modern-day veterans: for all the differences between veterans of different eras, between different veterans groups, and even within single veterans organizations, the reality is that unity is far more powerful than division, and that from the correct perspective it’s clear to see that what unites the groups—the need to serve veterans and their families—is far greater than what divides them.
It begins with a parade
On Sunday, June 12, the convention kicked off with a huge parade through the heart of downtown. The mass of Legionnaires made its way down Water Street, within sight of St. John’s harbour and stopped for a ceremony at what is still called the National War Memorial, which has stood in that spot since before 1924, well before Newfoundland entered Canadian confederation.
At the ceremony, Lieutenant-Governor Frank Fagan, Silver Cross Mother Sheila Anderson and Minister of Veterans Affairs Kent Hehr all placed wreathes. Hehr then joined the lieutenant-governor and Anderson on the reviewing stand as the parade marched past.
All along Water Street, people came out of shops and restaurants to record the parade’s passing.
Back at the convention centre, the delegates gathered for the opening ceremony. It began with a re-enactor in First World War dress delivering a speech about how important it was for young Newfoundlanders to join up and fight for their country, and for England. The ceremony was largely centered on Newfoundland’s military history, detailing their outsized exploits during Canada’s wars.
There were musical performances by Judy Brazil, Kelly Ann Evans and Peter Noel, among others.
“We gather here from all parts of our country, from coast to coast to coast,” said Canadian Armed Forces Chaplain-General Guy Chapdelaine. “We have come to honour those who have served with courage and to work for a better future. We give thanks for the work of The Royal Canadian Legion, for their unfailing support for those who have given greatly of themselves.”
After eloquent video greetings from Governor General David Johnston, Newfoundland and Labrador Command President Frank Sullivan struck the perfect note with his greetings to all the CFAs (come from aways), welcoming them to Newfoundland, “to heaven at sea because, believe it or not, you’re all adrift in the North Atlantic.”
Fagan officially opened the convention with a short speech. “The Royal Canadian Legion continues to be a significant part of our community,” he said. “We are so honoured that you choose to gather in this province, and especially at this time.”
It was a special time for Newfoundlanders. The original convention plans for 2016 had changed several years ago so Legionnaires could join Newfoundlanders in commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel in France. It was there, on July 1, 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme, that the Newfoundland Regiment was nearly wiped out. Its impact was felt across the island in almost every city, town and outport. July 1 has remained as Memorial Day in the province, even as the rest of Canada celebrates Canada Day.
The consideration of the business
The keynote speaker for the day was Minister of Veterans Affairs, Kent Hehr. “You have been the backbone of our society for many, many years. You exemplify what is great about this nation,” he said. “I made it a priority to come to this convention. We must all work together to keep the Legion alive, both today and tomorrow. The Legion is as important today as it was 90 years ago.”
Hehr outlined the new government’s efforts to restore good relations with Canada’s veterans. “I have been working hard to fix what hasn’t been working. It hasn’t always been easy. The solutions aren’t simple, the challenges are great,” he said. “I know that when a veteran voices his or her concerns, Canadians are listening. Most are satisfied with the help they receive. But you’ll hear in the news that some veterans have fallen through the cracks. These stories may give you the perception that we aren’t doing a good job, and don’t get me wrong, they have the right to voice their opinions. But don’t get the impression that all has gone wrong. We are doing very, very well.”
While some veterans would no doubt debate the minister on his sunny views of his department’s performance, it was clear from his speech that lots of positive changes have been made in the past months.
Dominion President Tom Eagles brought the first of many big news items to the convention floor when he revealed that the Legion Foundation—set up to allow the organization to receive charitable donations—was on the cusp of becoming a reality, and that it had already received its first sizable donation.
“You have been the backbone of our society
for many, many years. You exemplify
what is great about this nation.” -Kent Hehr
Wasting no time, he went on to make a historic motion. Eagles made a recommendation to establish the Operational Stress injury (OSI) Special Section. It was seconded. There was no discussion and while it was not unanimous, the floor overwhelmingly voted to create the first new section for the Legion in modern times.
“We’ve made history, ladies and gentlemen,” said Eagles after the motion passed.
Eagles spoke about the Invictus Games, the Legion’s role as a key sponsor of that event when it comes to Toronto in 2017, and how important it is for soldiers and ex-soldiers to play sports.
He then went on to address the way the Legion had lately been characterized by the media. “If you don’t read the press, don’t start now,” Eagles joked. “We are taking a licking.
“I won’t stand for these accusations, and neither will [incoming president] Dave Flannigan,” he said. “We are all bound by a common goal. Serving the needs of our veterans and their families, as well as our members. I urge all of us to focus on our shared vision and values,” said Eagles. “It is important to maintain the trust of our members, and that we are seen to answer when questions are raised. I’m recommending the new executive conduct a third-party review of our business practice.”
“We’ve made history,
ladies and gentlemen.”
– Dominion President Tom Eagles
Treasurer Mark Barham took to the microphone. “At the last convention, the direction provided was to get Dominion Command’s house in order. We did that.”
Barham outlined all of the cost-saving measures taken in order to balance Dominion Command budgets. “Everybody pulled together and delivered. At times the medicine may not have tasted that good, but no one spat it out.”
Barham gave a presentation which was offered as information only. It detailed the current state of the Legion’s finances and he disclosed plans for a per capita increase of $1 per year for the next two years. Barham told the audience he would then visit the caucuses to discuss the proposal in more detail.
A new executive
The elections were handled quickly and efficiently. There were 966 delegates present, carrying 2,065 proxies for a total of 3,031 votes.
For the position of president, Dave Flannigan of Labrador City, N.L., Branch was nominated by former dominion president Wilf Edmond and he was acclaimed into the role.
Dominion vice-presidents Ed Pigeau of Thessalon, Ont., Branch, André Paquette of Harry Searle Branch in Chapleau, Ont., and Tom Irvine of Hemmingford, Que., Branch were nominated for first vice-president, and Irvine was given the nod.
Bruce Julian of Beachville, Ont., Branch, Ross Petten of Bay Roberts, N.L., Branch, Roland Fissette of St. James Branch in Winnipeg, Angus Stanfield of Sooke, B.C., Branch and Paquette stood for the three vice-president positions. Julian, Stanfield and Paquette were elected.
Mark Barham of Kensington Branch in Calgary was acclaimed as treasurer and in the final election of the convention, Ontario’s Bill Chafe of Sarnia Branch unseated Ontario’s Jack Frost of Madoc Branch as dominion chairman.
As a part of Dominion Secretary Brad White’s report, he had three modern veterans share their perspectives with delegates. Among them was Ottawa city councillor Jody Mitic, a former sniper who lost both legs in Afghanistan. “I never felt like a veteran until I retired,” he said. “So the Legion was always something to look forward to when I retired. It’s the veterans’ organization in Canada. You guys speak for veterans when the government asks.”
The 2016 Founder’s Award was presented to Rick Mercer. “It’s an honour to be recognized by an organization as fine as the Canadian Legion,” he said. Speaking of his own career, he added, “I feel like I have the best job in the country. But I have not unpacked in 13 years.”
Veterans Ombudsman Guy Parent took to the stage to present a Veterans Ombudsman’s Commendation to Ontario Command for its Leave the Streets Behind program. Ontario Command President Brian Weaver accepted.
After the sports committee report, a resolution was presented to cancel both curling and eight-ball at dominion level. An amendment came forward to separate the resolution and vote on curling and eight-ball separately. The first vote to cancel curling was so close that a standing vote was called for before it was determined that curling would be cancelled. However, the convention voted to retain eight-ball.
Daniel Ludwig, past national commander of the American Legion, brought his regards and donated $10,000 to help with the recovery effort in Fort McMurray.
There was a motion on the floor to allow the wearing of Newfoundland forget-me-not lapel pins across all commands. It was carried.
The final day
The convention’s final day got off to a good start with the traditional collection of funds for the Royal Commonwealth Ex-services League to help needy veterans in the Caribbean. The lineups to make announcements were long and the total was an impressive $170,002 In addition, $3,409 was donated to the OSI Special Section to help get it up and running.
Treasurer Barham then delivered the budget report. While many questions came in from the floor about various issues, all questions were eventually answered, the report passed, and Barham received a standing ovation for the detailed and clear presentation.
Barham then made an amendment to his earlier presentation. He raised the yearly per capita increase to $1.25 because the delegates had voted to retain eight ball and needed money to pay for it.
While many on the floor did question the increase, the general feeling that emerged was that it’s been a long time since an increase and it was time for members to chip in and help out. The per capita increase passed with only a handful of dissenters.
In what was perhaps the convention’s moment of greatest tension, a motion came to the floor to reduce the Legion’s membership categories to two, one called “veteran” and the other “associate.” Numerous speakers delivered passionate arguments against the motion and it was soundly defeated.
Flannigan takes command
With all the business taken care of, all that remained was for Grand President Larry Murray to install the new officers.
With that done, Dominion President Dave Flannigan gave a speech which not only looked back at the past, but ahead to the future. “All the stars have aligned properly and today I am here, representing all the soldiers who went over the top at Beaumont-Hamel, as your dominion president,” said Flannigan. “I never dreamed that me, this little guy from Lawn, N.L., would ever become the president of the greatest veterans’ organization in Canada.
“The next two years are going to make or break the RCL, as we have to stop the bleeding in membership,” said Flannigan. “We have to change, or change will topple us over. We have to remain relevant. It is the time for Legionnaires to stop thinking in terms of ‘us’ and ‘them’ and start thinking of every aspect of the Legion as ‘us.’ If we do not unite, we are doomed from the start.”
The 47th Dominion Convention will take place in Winnipeg in August 2018.
Carried by convention
Members of The Royal Canadian Legion meeting at the 46th Dominion Convention in St. John’s, N.L., send greetings to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and express loyalty and allegiance, its indebtedness for her service and leadership, and pray that she be spared to continue to guide the Commonwealth.
VETERANS, SERVICE AND SENIORS
1. (ONT)—Urges the federal government stand by its social covenant and uphold the sacred obligation to care for veterans and their families throughout their lives, by allowing them to maintain a quality of life that is worthy of the sacrifices they have made for Canada.
2. (SASK)—Calls on the criteria for a contract bed in a veterans facility be expanded to include any veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces or Allied forces of any era, based on health needs.
3. (ONT)—Calls for Dominion Command to advocate to the federal government that long-term care institutions such as Parkwood Hospital in London, Ont., and Sunnybrook Life Sciences Centre in Toronto provide hospital and long-term care for all veterans by amending the Health Care Regulations Act to change the admissions policy for veterans hospitals.
4. (NS/NU)—Calls the Legion to stand by new veterans and ensure that they are looked after comfortably in veterans units and petition the federal government, through Veterans Affairs Canada, to keep all veterans’ units and wings open for new veterans.
POPPY AND REMEMBRANCE
5. (ONT)—Asks that the poppy appear in obituaries to identify a veteran’s death notice.
7. (QUE)—Cancels curling as a Dominion Command sport, but retains darts, cribbage and eight-ball as dominion-level sports, so as not to adversely affect the commands that rely on these events.
DEFENCE AND SECURITY
*305 (BC/YUKON)—Calls on the Legion to petition the federal government to create a medal to recognize all Canadian military veterans who have volunteered to serve in the Canadian Armed Forces.
RITUAL AND AWARDS
*307 (ALTA-NWT)—Changes the Ritual, Awards and Protocol Manual to include a description of the National Flag of Canada as of 1965 as the flag that Canadians have served under in the Persian Gulf War, Afghanistan and many UN and NATO missions.
CONSTITUTION AND LAWS
*308 (NS/NU)—States that anyone convicted under the Criminal Code of Canada of theft or misappropriation of poppy funds, Legion funds or property shall be automatically expelled from The Royal Canadian Legion upon the superior command receiving notification and documentation of such conviction from the branch or command.
(NB) Calls upon Veterans Affairs Canada to amend its criteria for traditional veterans with Canada-only service so that they be allowed to reside in VAC-funded hospital beds.
*Denotes non-concurred resolution brought back to the floor by a command and approved by convention.
DOMINION PRESIDENT Dave Flannigan, 60, has served the Legion for 41 years and is a life member of Labrador City, N.L., Branch. He was district commander in 2001 and has held every branch office, including president of Newfoundland and Labrador Command in 2007. That year, he joined Dominion Executive Council and was a member of finance/budget and focus on the future committees and was chairman of sports and poppy and remembrance committees. He has also served as co-chairman of membership and outreach. Currently he is chairman of veterans, services and seniors, Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League (RCEL) and dominion convention and vice-chairman of pay, finance/budget, investment and staff pension and a member of veterans consultation committee. In June he was appointed vice-chairman of the Canvet Publications Ltd. Board of Directors.
In 2004, after 29 years, Flannigan retired from the Iron Ore Co. of Canada and for the next three years owned and operated Tool Maintenance Plus. He also spent five years as a sales manager at Hercules SLR Inc. in Labrador City. He sat on the Legion hospital telethon committee, and enjoys sports. Flannigan has been awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Golden and Diamond Jubilee medals.
He and his wife Vera have six children, Mitchell, Tanya, Dale, Dean, Dwayne and Danny, and 12 grandchildren.
FIRST VICE Thomas Irvine, 61, served for 23 years with the Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada including active duty in Egypt with the United Nations Emergency Force. He has spent 28 years serving the Legion and is currently a life member of Hemmingford, Que., Branch. Irvine rose through the ranks to provincial vice-chairman, vice-president and three terms of provincial chairman. This past summer, he was appointed chairman of the Canvet Publications Ltd. Board of Directors.
For 10 years Irvine served as dominion chairman and 14 years on national committees including membership and outreach, constitution and laws, finance/budget, dominion convention, focus on the future, leadership development and youth, poppy and remembrance and sports. He is currently chairman of membership, vice-chairman of veterans, services and seniors and member of RCEL, pay, finance/budget, dominion convention and veterans consultation.
He retired from TD Canada Trust in 2004, is a member of the Freemason’s Harmony Lodge No. 131 Grand Registry of Quebec and seven-time past master of Argyle-Elgin Lodge No. 7. Irvine is a member of Montreal’s Black Watch Veterans Association and an avid supporter of the Trinity Church scouting group. Irvine is a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Golden and Diamond Jubilee medals. His hobbies include walking and public speaking. He and his wife Paulette have four children, Jennifer, Wanda, Tom and Tim, and four grandchildren.
VICE-PRESIDENT Bruce Julian, 64, has 39 years of Legion service and is a life member of the Beachville, Ont., Branch. He has served in the third and fourth battalions of the Royal Canadian Regiment and at every level of the Legion rising to president of Ontario Command in 2013. At the national level he has served on Dominion Executive Council and as a member of poppy and remembrance and veterans, services and seniors committees. He is currently chairman of public relations and zone representative for Western U.S.
Julian is a recipient of the Meritorious Service Medal and the Queen Elizabeth II Golden and Diamond Jubilee medals as well as the Fire Services Exemplary Service Medal and Fire Services Long Service Medal awarded by the federal and provincial governments respectively. Julian farms for a living and enjoys travelling, fishing, reading and time with his family. He and his wife Darlene have two children, Jaclyn and Joseph and three grandchildren, Brandon, Megan and Ella.
VICE-PRESIDENT André Paquette, 64, has served the Legion for 42 years and is a life member of Harry Searle Branch in Chapleau, Ont. He has served extensively at the branch, zone and district levels, rising to president of Ontario Command in 2011. At the national level he has served as a member of the membership committee in 2009 and joined the Dominion Executive Council in 2011. He served as chairman of sports, a member of veterans, services and seniors and finance/budget committees. Currently, he is chairman of poppy and remembrance, a member of finance/budget and zone representative for Europe.
He is a recipient of the Meritorious Service Medal and the Queen Elizabeth II Golden and Diamond Jubilee medals. He served four years in the reserves and 40 years with the Canadian Pacific Railway. Paquette is retired and enjoys hunting, fishing and camping and he and his wife Jane have four boys, Ian, Brian, Scott and Patrick Joseph (PJ).
VICE-PRESIDENT Angus Stanfield, 70, has 24 years of Legion service. He is a life member of the Sooke, B.C., Branch and was first elected to the branch executive in 1995 and became president in 2001. Twelve years later he was elected president of British Columbia/Yukon Command and began serving at the national level on the Dominion Executive Council. He was vice-chairman of poppy and remembrance and a member of the sports committee. He now serves as chairman of sports, as a member of finance/budget committees and zone representative for the Eastern U.S.
Stanfield was an electrical contractor for 49 years and is chairman and treasurer of the housing society which operates Cockrell House, as well as a pipe major and founder of the Sooke Pipe Band. He has been awarded the Meritorious Service Medal, the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers and the District of Sooke Volunteer Award. He has two children, Cameron and Carley and three grandchildren, Chasen, Travis and Cierra.
TREASURER Mark Barham, 58, is a life member of Kensington Branch in Calgary. He has been active with the Legion for 41 years and risen through the ranks to become treasurer of Alberta-Northwest Territories Command. Currently, Barham serves at the national level on Dominion Executive Council and this is his second term as chairman of pay, finance/budget, investment and staff pension committees.
He is a director of the Whitney Victoria Barham Foundation and a contributor to the Tim Hortons Children’s Foundation. He recently retired after selling his interest in a restaurant chain. Barham enjoys fishing, hunting, hockey and writing.
CHAIRMAN Bill Chafe, 58, is a life member with 38 years in the Legion. He served with the First Hussars Reserve Regiment and is currently a member of Sarnia, Ont., Branch. Chafe has risen through the ranks to become Ontario Command chairman and is now serving at the national level as a member of constitution and laws, finance/budget and dominion convention committees.
He works with Chemfab Industries Inc. and in his spare time enjoys all things Legion, travelling and sports. Chafe is a recipient of the Meritorious Service Medal and the Queen Elizabeth II Golden and Diamond Jubilee medals. He and his wife Laurie have two children, Sharon and Bill and seven grandchildren.
IMMEDIATE PAST PRESIDENT Tom Eagles, 59, has spent 39 years serving the Legion. He is a life member of the Marble Arch Branch in his hometown of Plaster Rock, N.B., and has served as branch president, district commander and provincial command president.
In 2003, Eagles joined Dominion Executive Council and since then has served at the national level as chairman of veterans, services and seniors, RCEL and dominion convention and vice-chairman of pay, finance/budget, investment and staff pension and a member of veterans consultation, constitution and laws, poppy and remembrance and outreach and community relations committees. Currently he is vice-chairman of public relations, sports, RCEL and leadership development as well as a member of pay and finance/budget committees. In 2012, he was chairman of the Canvet Board of Directors.
He is a recipient of the Meritorious Service Medal, 125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada medal, Queen Elizabeth II Golden and Diamond Jubilee medals and Minister of Veterans Affairs Commendation. Eagles has worked for the municipality of Plaster Rock for 37 years. He is past president of Plaster Rock’s Minor Hockey League and spent five years on the Tobique Valley Manor Board of Directors. His hobbies include hockey, baseball and golf. He and his wife Cheryl Giberson have four children, Ryan, Daniel, Brook and Brett and two granddaughters, Killian and Ella.
GRAND PRESIDENT Larry Murray, 69, retired in 1997 after 33 years with the Royal Canadian Navy and as acting chief of the defence staff with the Canadian Forces. He joined Fisheries and Oceans that year and was appointed associate deputy minister. In 1999, he moved to Veterans Affairs Canada where he served as deputy minister and returned to Fisheries and Oceans in 2003.
At the Legion’s national level, he has served as chairman of the veterans consultation, facilitator of focus on the future and defence and security committees. Currently, he is chairman of the veterans consultation and continues as ex-officio of veterans, services and seniors committee. He is the former chair of the Board of Directors of the Public Policy Forum and past president of the Nova Scotia Mainland Division of the Navy League of Canada. He was the first chairman of the Veterans Ombudsman Advisory Committee, an external member of the National Defence Audit Committee and honorary Colonel Commandant of the Chaplain Branch of the Canadian Forces. At present he is chair of the Independent Review Panel on Defence Acquisition.
Murray’s awards include member of the Order of Canada, Commander of the Order of Military Merit, member of the Order of St-John of Jerusalem, NATO Special Services medal, Vimy Award from the Conference of Canadian Defence Associations, Chief of Defence Staff Commendation, Minister of Veterans Affairs Commendation, 125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada medal and the Queen Elizabeth II Golden and Diamond Jubilee medals.
He and his wife Claudia Buckley have six children and enjoy spending time with their five grandchildren. In his spare time he enjoys volunteering, kayaking, gardening, jogging and reading.
Comedian Rick Mercer receives Legion Founders Award
Rick Mercer is one of Canada’s most beloved entertainers, and has been for a very long time. But he’s not just a comedian, he’s also a tireless supporter of Canada’s troops. To that end, Mercer has travelled far and wide with the military—from Bosnia to Afghanistan and everywhere in between.
In recognition of Mercer’s steadfast dedication he was presented with the Legion Founders Award at this year’s Dominion Convention in St. John’s.
Introduced in 2012, the Founders Award is given to an individual or an organization for extraordinary achievement in an area that exemplifies and advances the purposes and objects of the Legion in the spirit and vision of the Legion’s founders.
Mercer, who is originally from St. John’s, was on hand to receive the award and entertain the delegates.
Directly from the delegates
At the 2016 Dominion Convention, we wanted to hear directly from the delegates about their thoughts on the future of the Legion, about what they think needs to be done to make the organization stronger. In order to do that, we stopped delegates at random and asked them the same question: What would you change about the Legion?
Jeff Scott, Caradoc Branch, Mount Brydges, Ont.
We’ve got to focus on the new generation coming up, the newer veterans. As strange as it sounds, Legionnaires say they want to change, but they still want to keep it the old way. We need to help the younger generation become presidents of our branches, put them in leadership roles. That’s how we do it at our Legion and it’s such a boost to incorporate the younger generation.
Selby Luffman, St. John’s, N.L., Branch
I would make all our communities more aware of the Legion and the activities that we do, and the opportunities that they can have with the Legion. We need more contact with the public, either through the media, or social media, or however.
Billy Gushue, Ferryland, N.L., Branch
I don’t think it needs to be changed, it just needs to adapt to modern times. My experience is that all the programs work, the system works, it probably just needs to be updated and changed for the new veteran. We are losing our older veterans at an alarming rate and we need to bring in the new veterans. We are a tribe. We require their memberships and they require our help.
Paulette Bement, Meadow Lake, Sask., Branch
If I could have my way, there would be a lot more younger members joining so they could take over the reins. In my branch, we’re getting tired. And the younger ones that are coming have not seemed to feel it important to learn how things are run, so they’re not capable of stepping up to the plate. In my day, we made it a point to find out how
things worked, and that’s not
Brian Morris, Robert Combe VC Branch, Melville, Sask.
I would make it more of an open-door policy, as a method of going out and bringing young people into the Legion. I’m looking at the young people out there—in cadets and in the schools that we go and visit—and I think it’s important, as they grow up, to reach out and encourage them to join the Legion.