A new Legion logo that puts the poppy front and centre and a high-energy membership drive dominated discussion throughout the meeting of Dominion Executive Council, Feb. 23-24.
The meeting began in a new format. Instead of starting with committee and provincial command reports, DEC members were broken up into four smaller groups. Each group was given a topic and assigned a room in Legion House in Kanata, Ont., to discuss the topic. After a 45-minute session, they returned to the boardroom to discuss the ideas that were in the air.
After brainstorming for future programs, DEC looked to the immediate future, endorsing a new branding initiative for the Legion which would put the poppy foremost in identifying the Legion.
DEC members saw two options for the name Legion and the stylized poppy and chose one which will be used on letterhead, reports, business cards and merchandise such as T-shirts and ball caps. The symbol is expected to be central to a new membership drive which the Membership Committee plans to have in place this spring. “Membership is our No. 1 priority,” said Dominion President Gordon Moore.
Assistant Deputy Minister Keith Hillier of Veterans Affairs Canada’s Service Delivery Branch made a presentation to DEC on the cutting red tape initiative. He said that the department was part way through a five-year plan.
“Sadly, our wartime veterans are passing at quite a rate,” said Hillier. “We are trying to develop policies to meet the needs of our youngest veterans who are 19 and the oldest who are 100.”
He said VAC is making greater use of technology. “We used to order service documents from Library and Archives Canada which meant that someone would be photocopying every page. If the client’s condition changed two years later, that process would start over again. Now we have a digital image. We do not have to create a new file each time there is a change.”
He said VAC is working with Public Works and Government Services Canada to transfer all correspondence into a digital image that can be accessed on computer by caseworkers or clients who have a My VAC Account. “Those who want a paper letter will get a paper letter,” he reassured DEC.
Part of the transformation of the department includes closing eight district offices with declining number of veteran clients.
He said some 800 positions will be eliminated but noted there will be 1,000 employees eligible for a non-reduced pension in coming years. “The greatest reduction will come through attrition,” he said. “There will be no reduction in service.”
He said caseworkers would still visit clients when needed. The visits could take place in the client’s home, in a nursing home or at the local Tim Hortons.
Poppy and Remembrance Committee Chairman Dave Flannigan showed members a sample of a poppy keeper, a plastic tube which can be placed on the end of the pin on a poppy to keep it from falling off coats and jackets. The keepers were introduced for health reasons and will remain optional. Some fast food outlets banned employees from wearing poppies during last year’s campaign saying the pins could fall into the food order and harm a customer.
The committee supported British Columbia/Yukon Command’s lead in allowing for computer generated and audio visual presentations in the annual literary and poster contests. Individual commands are welcomed to develop their own command contest with a view that, over time, a national competition would be developed.
In presenting the Veterans, Service and Seniors Committee report Chairman Gordon Moore said the Legion had launched a letter-writing campaign, demanding action on veterans’ funeral and burial benefits. [The campaign proved successful. Grants for funeral services were more than doubled in the March 21 federal budget.]
The Legion was a sponsor of the Canadian Institute of Military Veteran Health Research Forum held in Kingston, Ont., in November. In addition to having a kiosk at the forum, Moore and Grand President Larry Murray attended the conference. Shelley Carey from the Dominion Command Service Bureau was moderator for two sessions.
The Legion’s contract with Veterans Affairs Canada for the Long-Term Care Surveyor Project has been extended to June 1 but will expire. The committee is working with VAC to develop a new program on veterans outreach and visitation to be in place early this summer.
In addition to the membership drive, the Membership Committee chaired by Peter Piper is preparing recommendations for DEC to change the General By-laws so that membership applications can be filled in online.
The Ritual and Awards Committee is amalgamating three manuals, Rituals and Insignia, Honours and Awards and Protocol into one to be titled the Ritual, Awards and Protocol Manual.
Members clearly defeated a motion from the Defence and Security Committee that would have supported the decriminalization of wearing another person’s medals under strict parameters.
Constitution and Laws Committee Chairman Jim Rycroft explained to DEC members that the new Canada Not-For-Profit Corporations Act (CNCA) came into effect on Oct. 17, 2011, giving organizations three years to comply.
DEC members voted to keep the current structure under the Act to Incorporate The Royal Canadian Legion rather than adopt the structure outlined in the CNCA. The Legion will be bound by Part 19 of the CNCA which requires an annual meeting which could be held in a write-in format in years when there is no dominion convention.
DEC agreed to change the name of the newly formed Training and Development Committee chaired by Ed Pigeau to the Leadership Development Committee which better reflected its strategic aims. The committee is developing a number of modules to assist future leaders reaching Dominion Command.
Past Dominion President Pat Varga is chairing the new Commemoration and Special Events Committee made up of former dominion presidents. The committee has selected two events for each year up to 2017 for commemoration. For 2013 the committee recommended that the Legion celebrate the 95th anniversary of the end of the First World War.
The Legion also decided that 2013 would be the Year of the Aboriginal Veteran. The Supply Department has designed and minted an attractive pin featuring a dream catcher. Members voted to have a plaque made using the same image that would be suitable for presentation to local native groups.
Dominion Treasurer Mike Cook said that 2012 had been a difficult year as revenue declined and investment returns were disappointing because of continued low interest rates. The decline in membership has led to reductions in per capita income, supply sales and the MasterCard Royalty program.
However, he noted that 2012 sales showed an encouraging trend. October had been the busiest month in four years and direct-to-member sales continued to increase through the fourth quarter of the year.
Other News From DEC
The following news was also presented at the Feb. 23-24 meeting of the Dominion Executive Council:
• Through the Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League, the Legion helped needy veterans and their dependants in the Caribbean in 2013 with $211,580 in individual assistance grants, $8,370 in administrative grants, $10,650 in medical grants, $5,500 to Curphy Home in Jamaica and approximately $23,500 in poppy materials.
• A donation of $5,000 was approved for the Afghanistan Repatriation Memorial Project in Trenton, Ont.
• The Military Member at Large Branch of the Legion held by Dominion Command has been amalgamated with Dominion Ottawa Branch.
• DEC agreed to sponsor awards to the top unit team and the top composite team at the cadets’ National Marksmanship Championship. This would be in addition to the marksmanship medallions presented to individual competitors.
• Newfoundland and Labrador Command won the Membership Achievement, Renewal and Early Bird awards.
• British Columbia/Yukon Command has moved into a new office in Surrey.
• Fifteen branches surrendered their charters in the last year, four in Saskatchewan, three each in Manitoba-Northwestern Ontario and Nova Scotia/Nunavut, and one each in B.C./Yukon, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.