Honours, veterans and language dominate discussions in a one-day affair
The 59th Quebec Provincial Command Convention was all business. Held solely on Sept. 24, 2022, due to a variety of logistical challenges posed by the pandemic, more than 150 members from across the province gathered at the St-Eustache Branch in Deux-Montagnes, a suburb on the west side of Montreal, to review and vote on resolutions, hear committee reports and to elect and install a new executive. Honours and veterans highlighted the discussions, as did some debate around bilingualism. There was no opening ceremony or parade.
Following a moment of silence to recognize the passing of veterans, Legion members and Queen Elizabeth II, President Ken Ouellet of the Lacolle Branch presented his report in French and English.
Ouellet thanked members for their efforts in attending the abbreviated biennial gathering, and noted that all Quebec branches had been closed between March 2021 and March 2022.
“We’ve just been through two very difficult years due to COVID,” said Ouellet. “We never faced this kind of challenge before. But we survived.”
Ouellet thanked the federal government and Dominion Command for helping Quebec branches withstand the financial difficulties. He noted, too, a number of successes despite the pandemic, including: the introduction of a new commemorative veterans licence plate, which is now on some 30,000 vehicles; 15 municipalities throughout the province are now offering designated parking spots for veterans at shopping centres and businesses; an increase in younger veterans joining; and the creation of a new leadership course designed to share critical elements of Legion business with all members, but notably local and regional executive officers.
“It’s up to you now to go get new members and to bring those people out,” said Ouellet.
The first of several committee reports followed. In the laws and constitution committee update, presented by its chair Susan Donnelly of the host branch, a bylaw change called for branch financials to be posted online after each general meeting. It was met with vocal opposition and a motion was passed to remove that requirement.
In overall finances, Treasurer Norman Shelton of the Chomedey Branch in Laval noted that while provincial revenue exceeded expenses by $56,930, that included $68,000 Quebec Command had received in pandemic-related emergency funding from Dominion Command and the federal government—offsetting what otherwise would have been a loss. He also reported that the provincial headquarters had moved offices to save money and that command had also engaged the services of a contract accountant to limit expenses.
Chairing a number of committees in addition to his responsibilities as treasurer, Shelton also reported the following: poppy sales were down 30 per cent in the last two years due to the pandemic; in August Sherbrooke hosted the first Legion National Youth Track and Field Championships since the pandemic (they will host again next August), provincial cribbage resumed this past October and provincial darts are slated for this coming March; and bursaries have been increased by $1,000 to $3,000.
Quebec Command Chair Christopher Wheatley also provided an update on the Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League, which supports veterans and widows in the Caribbean. His report garnered two donations from the floor totalling $6,000 and another $439 in on-the-spot cash support.
Dominion First Vice-President Owen Parkhouse provided bilingual updates from national headquarters.
“A lot has happened over the past couple of years, but things are getting better,” said Parkhouse. “Your hard work has ensured our veterans were cared for and that most branches survived.”
Among the Dominion Command initiatives Parkhouse highlighted were: the expansion of the one-year free membership to parents and guardians of veterans; the development of a digital membership card; the launch of 100 per cent biodegradable lapel poppies and wreaths; the growth of the poster and literary contests; and advocacy work to address sexual trauma in the Canadian Armed Forces, clear the backlog of disability claims at Veterans Affairs Canada and secure pandemic-related financial support for branches.
Parkhouse also oversaw the elections. Ouellet ran for a third term as president, but lost to Immediate Past Dominion President Thomas Irvine of the Hemmingford Branch. Afterward, three members separately objected passionately in French to the position going to an English-only speaker.
William Howe of the Greenfield Park Branch, Luc Fortier of the Chicoutimi Branch, Jean St-Laurent of the Quebec North Shore Branch in Baie-Comeau and Robert Trepanier of the Lt.-Col. Robert Grondin Branch in Shawinigan were all nominated for first vice. The latter two declined the nominations and Howe was elected.
Fortier and St-Laurent did accept nominations for the three vice-president positions, however, and were joined on the ballot by Mary-Ann Latimer of the Aylmer Branch and Terrance Deslage and Gordon Lippiatt of the Greenfield Park Branch. Sylvian Arbour of the Lt.-Col. Charles Forbes Branch in Quebec City declined his nomination. Latimer, Deslage and Fortier were elected.
Trepanier was nominated again as chair, along with Donnelly and incumbent Wheatley of Chomedey Branch, though the latter declined. Donnelly took the seat. Shelton was acclaimed treasurer for another term.
While election ballots were counted, members also voted on 15 resolutions concurred by their respective committees.
Medals and honours were the focus of nine resolutions and much discussion. In the end, just one barely passed (it required a headcount): a request that Dominion Command produce a 100th anniversary medal for its centenary in 2025. One member seemed to sum up the general opinion regarding the honours’ resolutions: “We need to stop drumming up things to wear and start thinking about the veterans.”
Two other noteworthy resolutions approved at the convention related to the lack of equal treatment of French on Dominion Command products and in Legion Magazine. Both demanded the entities do more to respect French language.
The convention concluded with the installation of new officers. Before the delegates departed, incoming President Irvine addressed them.
“I want to congratulate all of the officers on their elections,” he said. “It’s now time to work. And that’s exactly what we’re going to do. We’re going to build bridges. There won’t be any discussions on race, religion, language. We’re all one member. We’re all one organization. And that’s the way we’re going to build on this.”