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49th Ontario convention

Support for homeless veterans continues in Ontario Ontario Command’s efforts for homeless veterans continued to garner strong support from the 575 delegates attending the 49th Ontario Command Convention, May 9-13, in Niagara Falls.


Support for homeless veterans continues in Ontario

Ontario Command’s efforts for homeless veterans continued to garner strong support from the 575 delegates attending the 49th Ontario Command Convention, May 9-13, in Niagara Falls.

Brian Weaver is installed as the new president of Ontario Command.
tom macgregor
“Our homeless veterans program is extremely active, with a running total of over 378 clients assisted, 130 permanently housed and, to date, we spent just shy of $775,000,” said President Bruce Julian in his president’s report. As well as sponsoring facilities on Parliament and Bathurst streets in Toronto, the command is in negotiations for apartment units built for this year’s Pan American Games and a new facility in Ottawa.

When asked how many homeless veterans there are in Ontario, Executive Director Dave Gordon replied, “You might as well ask me how many snowflakes fell in the last snowfall. We have no idea.” Delegates showed their support, raising more than $115,000 for the program.

It was the highlight of the convention, which began with a simple ceremony of remembrance in front of the cenotaph at A.C. McCallum Branch in Niagara Falls. Diane Condon, who chaired the Local Arrangements Committee from Zone B-5, acted as master of ceremonies. Wreaths were placed on behalf of Silver Cross mothers, Veterans Affairs Canada, Dominion Command and Ontario Command.

Condon announced at the end of the ceremony that President Julian had fired the zone’s 25-pound field gun, when he first left the zone for Ontario Command and that he should do so as he is about to leave the president’s office. He was led to the gun and fired one ceremonial blank shot.

Shortly after, an impressive parade marched off, bound for the Scotiabank Convention Centre two kilometres away. Military vehicles were spread throughout the parade, many carrying veterans who would have trouble walking the parade route.

Opening ceremonies followed inside the convention centre with Dominion First Vice Dave Flannigan officially declaring the convention open. Business sessions began the next morning, with President Julian outlining some of the changes the command is facing.

Dominion First Vice Dave Flannigan (left) places a wreath assisted by Ontario Command Past President André Paquette.
tom macgregor
“In an attempt to better serve and reconnect with both our members and our branches, Ontario Command has initiated a Provincial Revitalization Committee. It is a committee jointly chaired by our vice-presidents but made up of members from the zones and branches from across command,” he said. “Realizing there are many impediments to significant change, such as existing structure and bylaws, current federal and provincial acts, branch autonomy and an inherent resistance to fundamental change, their mandate is quite simple—come up with a better, more efficient, more productive, more financially responsible way for our branches and command to move forward.”

Honorary Treasurer Don Hubbs received applause by announcing that the command had $249,504 in excess revenue for the year ending May 31, 2014, in part due to the success of the veterans licence plate program and the new military service recognition book. “I can assure you that the finances of Ontario Command are in good shape and hopefully will remain this way for some time to come,” he said.

Moving on to the Ways and Means Committee report, Hubbs said, “The committee has considered the per-capita required by our command over the next two-year term and recommends that there be no per-capita increase.” The recommendation was enthusiastically carried.

Earlier in the convention, Pierre Lemieux, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of Veterans Affairs, spoke of the department’s efforts to become “veteran-centric.” “Veterans need to be first and foremost in all we do at Veterans Affairs Canada. They should feel valued by Canadians and the Canadian government.”

Lemieux pointed out that he spent 20 years in the Canadian Armed Forces and that Veterans Affairs Minister Erin O’Toole is a veteran, as is Deputy Minister Walt Natynczyk, the former chief of defence staff. He outlined a number of measures announced recently to improve veterans benefits and to introduce changes to the New Veterans Charter.

Flannigan brought greetings from Dominion Command and explained that membership was undergoing many changes in an attempt to improve the renewal process. He also spoke on the Legion’s work with the Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League. Delegates later raised more than $21,000 for the RCEL from the floor.

President Bruce Julian prepares to fire the gun.
tom macgregor
Veterans Services/Seniors Committee Chair Greg Oakes expressed skepticism on the improvements to VAC benefits which have been announced but not passed into legislation at press time. “So far the MPs are taking credit for our work and the work they have not done yet to improve the [New Veterans Charter]. We have shown them there are 14 points to address and they know it. We cannot trust VAC’s presentation of the improvements. They may never happen. The Legion message about the charter is not a cry in the wilderness, but it has to become louder, so it becomes public opinion.”

Member-participation sports drew a lot of attention. Sports Committee Chair Vic Newey reported that there was a sharp increase in eight-ball pool participation. “Branches have noticed an increase in the membership of the younger people coming in to play the sport,” he said. Several delegates spoke in support of eight-ball, which will be suspended as a Dominion Command sport in 2016.

Two events had been dropped from the provincial sports program, 10-pin bowling and lawn bowling. “After several tries to revive both events, it was decided by the Sports Committee that the interest was no longer there and it was best to cancel both events,” said Newey. He added that both events happen outside the branch and do not allow the branches to make the sort of profit that is made on events that are played in the branch, such as cribbage and darts.

Sports was the focus of three of the non-concurred resolutions which were brought back to the floor on the last day. All three passed, expanding the sports program to include the game of washer toss, a women’s division in the golf program, and a seniors’ level for dart players 55 and older.

A number of familiar resolutions were passed dealing with veterans’ care, including one calling for the Government of Canada to issue an identity card for veterans of the Canadian Armed Forces, the RCMP and their families; survivors’ pensions to be increased; and that the federal government maintain long-term care beds for today’s veterans.

Executive Director Gordon gave his report, saying that the command had recently opened an office for a command service officer in London and closed the command office in Windsor. He also announced this would be his last convention, as he will retire next year.

In elections, First Vice Brian Weaver of Capt. Brien Branch in Essex was acclaimed command president.

Vice-President Sharon McKeown of Pte. Joe Waters Branch in Milton was elected first vice in a contest with fellow vice-president Ken Sorrenti of Cardinal Branch.

Sorrenti then dropped down and faced six other challengers for the three positions of vice-president, Greg Kobold of Brighton Branch, Garry Pond of Carleton Place Branch, Jay Burford of Todmorden Branch in Toronto, Mike Giovenetti of Tottenham Branch, Derek Moore of Capt. Fred Campbell VC Branch in Mount Forest and John Grosvenor of Hon. Ray Lawson Branch in Chatham. Vice-President David Smith of Wagner Memorial Branch in Teeterville declined to seek another term. After four ballots, Sorrenti, Pond and Moore were elected.

Honorary Treasurer Don Hubbs of Burlington Branch, Chairman Bill Chafe of Sarnia Branch and Vice-Chairman Ron Goebel of Carleton Place Branch were all acclaimed to another term.

Weaver thanked delegates for their support, saying that being elected command president fulfilled a promise he made to his father to get involved in the Legion. “This is not my Legion or even Ontario Command’s Legion. This is your Legion,” he said. “Everyone in Ontario Command is there to help you.”


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