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2007: The Year In Review: More Anniversaries And A Year Of Provincial Conventions

In 2007 veterans and Canadians marked several important anniversaries. Fifty years after Canada became a country its troops found themselves at Vimy Ridge, where many say the nation was really born, and Canadian soldiers swept to victory where others could not. It was the first time that Canadian units served together as a Canadian formation.

 

In that same year Canada introduced the Military Service Act which introduced conscription and took part in the battles of Passchendaele and Cambrai. In the midst of commemorations for some events, The Royal Canadian Legion’s provincial commands held their conventions, the results of which were published in this magazine. These were preludes to what will happen in 2008, but while the preparations for these conventions were being made, the Dominion Command committees were meeting.

 

The Poppy and Remembrance Committee, chaired by Dominion Vice-President Pat Varga, amended its terms of reference and revised and distributed an expanded edition of the Poppy Manual with a guideline governing the use of the Legion’s registered trademark of the poppy. It continued to communicate with Canada’s youth on the sacrifices of our veterans and heroes with new poppy promotional material such as a poppy sticker (safe for wear on most fabrics) and a bookmark with the poem In Flanders Fields. Other new items included Poppy Volunteer ribbons and a DVD of two Remembrance videos.

 

Canada’s youth benefited as 26 youth leaders and veterans participated in the Youth Leaders’ Pilgrimage of Remembrance in July. Through visits to battlefields, and wreath-placing ceremonies at cemeteries in Europe, they gained a unique perspective and level of understanding about Remembrance.

 

Corporations also got involved in helping Canadians. Tim Hortons, Sears, Shoppers Drug Mart and Home Hardware invited poppy distribution in their outlets and encouraged customers to wear a poppy. Air Canada expanded its support by placing an enlarged Poppy decal on 40 of its aircraft during the Remembrance period. Canada’s young artists and writers were no less involved.

 

More than 100,000 school students, including those who are home-schooled and physically challenged, participated in the Legion’s nationwide literary and poster contests. Canada AM provided national exposure to this contest and conducted a live interview with the committee secretary from the Canadian War Museum. The senior category winners were: Hee Ra Kim (colour poster) of Surrey, B.C., Natalie Lloyd (black and white poster) of Guelph, Ont., James Welke (essay) of Pincher Creek, Alta., and Corley Farough (poem) of Taber, Alta. These winners came to Ottawa to place a wreath on behalf of Canada’s youth during the National Remembrance Day Ceremony.

 

This noted resurgence in interest in Remembrance was also highlighted at the ceremony. An estimated 30,000 spectators gathered at the National War Memorial. Included in the viceregal party was the Silver Cross Mother for 2007-2008, Wilhelmina Beerenfenger-Koehler of Embrun, Ont. She is the mother of the late-Corporal Robbie Christopher Beerenfenger, who was killed near Kabul, Afghanistan, on Oct. 2, 2003.

 

The Legion again took this period to welcome to Ottawa the Outstanding Cadet of the Year from each of the three cadet leagues. They were: Chief Petty Officer Courtney Davies (Navy) from Regina, Chief Warrant Officer Katie McKenna (Army) from Charlottetown and Warrant Officer Lisa Davidson (Air) from Ancaster, Ont.

 

The Order of St. Joachim’s $500 education bursary, initiated to retain that Order’s historical link to the military, and to benefit someone pursuing post-secondary studies, was presented by Dominion President Jack Frost on its behalf to CWO McKenna. In addition to this initiative, and with their own heavy schedule of activities, the Legion’s Dominion Command Colour Party volunteered to train a cadet colour party for participation in local parades.

 

The week leading up to Remembrance Day is named Veterans Week and is sponsored by Veterans Affairs Canada. While many groups adopt this theme, Encounters With Canada helps lead the way. This Legion-supported, year-round program brings our country’s youth together for one week at a time to study various themes, including Remembrance during Veterans Week.

 

The significance of Remembrance is one of the tenets on which the Legion was founded. The other was veterans care. The Veterans, Service and Seniors Committee (VSS) continued its work as Committee Chair and Dominion President Frost continued face-to-face consultations with the minister of Veterans Affairs and senior VAC officials. In two separate meetings they discussed Legion priorities, especially extension of the Veterans Independence Program for frail veterans and widows whose husbands died before 1981.

 

The Legion also proposed, through the New Veterans Charter (NVC) Advisory Council, some changes or modifications to ensure these new programs meet the needs of veterans, serving members and dependants. Some of these proposals will be framed as resolutions by the VSS for approval at convention.

 

Appearances were also made by Frost and Dominion Vice-President Erl Kish in front of the standing committees on Veterans Affairs, and Citizenship and Immigration. The former was to support an act on the establishment of a National Peacekeepers Day and the latter to advocate on behalf of Canadian Forces members and war brides who have been considered “lost Canadians.” This latter advocacy led to a remedial act to amend the Citizenship Act by the year’s end.

 

Health-care services provided by VAC also came under the scrutiny of the Legion. It told MPs of the need for modernization of the services to eliminate gaps and the adoption of a modern service-delivery model based on needs. The Legion also advocated for better housing programs for veterans and seniors and a Seniors Independence Program modelled on the VIP through the Senate Committee on Aging. The VSS Committee vice-chairman is Dominion First Vice-President Wilf Edmond.

 

The Service Bureau was also very busy through the year with its representation of veterans and dependants to access disability benefits under both the Pension Act and the NVC. The Veterans Bill of Rights was further defined in

collaboration with other veterans groups and a new federal Veterans Ombudsman was appointed. Retired colonel Pat Stogran met with the Dominion President soon after his appointment.

 

Two training sessions were hosted by the bureau for Legion command service officers and candidates from VAC and the CF. The director participated in a training session at the Centre for the Care of the Injured detachments at Canadian Forces Base Trenton and the Service Officer Biennial Training Conference in Montreal.

 

The Long-Term Care Surveyor Program saw 2,587 veterans residing at 683 different facilities visited and questioned at the behest of VAC. Analysis shows that while there is a high level of overall satisfaction, the quality of food served is the main cause for dissatisfaction. This activity remains popular and complements social visits to branches.

 

Legion housing consultant David MacDonald continued to provide valuable assistance to branches and commands and the former were encouraged to include real property assets in their long-term planning. While many branches are located on valuable real property, and some have estate holdings in excess of their operational needs, these were not considered by branches in their planning. In many cases real property held can be converted to an asset from a liability and become a viable income stream.

 

During the year VAC also upgraded the Legion Client Service Delivery Network to provide increased security and features for all command service officers. A dramatic change to the hearing loss policy was also announced at year-end and recognized that partial entitlements may be granted for this condition, a long-established goal of Legion advocacy efforts.

 

While the VSS Committee forged ahead, the Membership Committee chaired by Vice-President Kish was tackling the problem of waning membership in the Legion. The committee placed a survey in the May/June issue of Legion Magazine to help determine how members had heard about the Legion. The results showed that word of mouth was the most successful method of recruiting new members.

 

To increase awareness and promote membership, the Dominion President asked all members to participate in a door-to-door recruitment campaign throughout the month of October. Branches were provided with a list of recruiting tips and multiple copies of the RCL Needs You brochure that was redesigned for the campaign. In conjunction with the campaign a new television ad was aired nationally on several television networks between Sept. 14 and Oct. 14.

 

The Membership Section too had a busy year. With the change to the Affiliate category, passed at the 2006 dominion convention, it processed thousands of category changes for those Canadian citizens and Commonwealth subjects who now qualify for voting

status. It also provided statistical reports and Provincial Command Dues Statements each month, while providing the branches with Member Transfer Reports, Transmittal Reports and membership cards on a regular basis.

 

The Membership Section Head attended several provincial conventions in the spring and summer which proved to be a great learning experience and gave her the chance to meet members.

 

Dominion Executive Council (DEC) also voted unanimously to honour sports broadcaster Don Cherry for his public support of our troops and veterans over the years. In July, a ceremony was held at Limestone City Branch in Kingston, Ont., where the Dominion President inducted Cherry as an Honorary Life Member of The Royal Canadian Legion. He became the 40th person to be so honoured.

 

The Legion Sports Committee, chaired by Dominion Vice-President John Alger, continued to carry out its own programs. Early in the year it recommended that both regular and seniors curling be amalgamated at the national level for 2008. This followed the withdrawal of both the Alberta– Northwest Territories and Ontario command teams from participating in curling at both the provincial and national levels. But in 2007 the games went on.

 

A.H. Foster MM Memorial Branch in Kingston, N.S., successfully hosted the 2007 Dominion Regular Curling Championships. The winner was St. Anthony’s Branch in Bloomfield, P.E.I. Normandy Branch in New Glasgow, N.S., hosted the 2007 Dominion Seniors Curling Championships which was won by Dauphin, Man., Branch.

 

Fairview Branch in Halifax hosted the Dominion Cribbage Championships. Miscouche, P.E.I., Branch hosted the Dominion Darts Championships.

 

The 2007 Legion National Track and Field Championships took place Aug. 8-14 at CFB Gagetown, in Oromocto, N.B. There were 324 athletes, 33 chaperones and 24 coaches attending representing all provincial commands. In addition there were five provincial representatives and nine Athletics Canada personnel there.

 

New Brunswick Lieutenant-Governor Herménégilde Chiasson opened the meet. The closing banquet featured Master Corporal Paul Franklin, a double amputee veteran of Afghanistan, as the guest speaker.

 

The top male and female athletes for the meet (new for 2007) were Christabel Nettey from B.C./Yukon Command and Aleksandr Kuternin from Ontario Command. The awards were presented in honour of Private Mark Graham, a former Legion athlete who was killed in action in Afghanistan. During the competition two Canadian youth and nine Legion records were broken.

 

The Legion National Coaching Clinic, conducted by Athletics Canada, was reintroduced as part of the Legion Nationals for 2007. Based upon the Athletics Canada Club Coach Curriculum and part of the new National Coaching Certification Program, the clinic was open to Legion coaches free of charge but, for a fee, any other coach could attend provided they were registered members of their provincial athletic branches. There were 19 Legion and 10 non-Legion coaches in attendance.

 

The CF also benefited from awards given by the Legion for sports. The Public Relations Committee chaired by Dominion Vice-President Cliff Tessier continued its support to the CF by sponsoring its Sports Awards Ceremony and presenting trophies to the Male and Female Coaches of the Year. This went hand in hand with the Legion’s sponsorship of the 11 CF Sports Championships, its assistance to the Nijmegen Marches and the provision of a gift at Christmas for all deployed service people through Operation Santa Claus. In 2007 UNIBIC of Australia supplied Canada’s deployed service people with 3,500 Canadian Legion commemorative tins of ANZAC cookies through Operation Santa Claus.

 

The PR Committee looked at more cost-effective ways to support other Legion operations while maintaining its own internal and external programs to enhance Legion awareness. The website came under review as did the need for e-legion with the addition of a bulletin board to the former. The committee considered the PR plan for future operations and updates to materials that were being made available at all levels. A branch survey was run at the closing of the year, showing that the Legion has an impact on the Canadian economy of approximately $375 million each year.

 

Public service announcements were produced for radio and TV outlets across Canada to support membership and poppy campaign. Initial estimates show that these were well-used. Poll results studied by the committee showed that the Legion remains well-known in Canada, is considered to have a future and rates high on its care of veterans and its perpetuation of Remembrance.

 

In the Communications Department more than 14,000 e-mails were processed during the year and design work was done on all new manuals that were being produced by other committees. Supply catalogues were produced along with advertising for print and electronic broadcasters while many forms of design and printing jobs continued to be done in-house. Computer hardware and software were improved and with it the efficiency that they offer while the senior officers were supplied with speaking notes and scheduling expertise.

 

The department was also responsible for co-ordinating the RCL Troop Morale Fund. By year-end more than $145,000 had been collected and 66,000 $2 gift certificates ordered. The aim of the fund is to provide every service person deployed to Afghanistan with a coffee and a doughnut every two weeks. As long as branch donations continue to be received the Legion will be able to do that for 2008 as well.

 

While the newer veteran continued to be supported by the Legion, so to did the Commonwealth veteran. In 2007 Legion branches collected and donated $344,000 to needy veterans in the Caribbean region through its Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League Committee chaired by Dominion President Frost. Aside from this, medical supplies and eyeglasses were donated where needed. More than 231 veterans and 132 veterans’ widows were assisted directly.

 

Meanwhile the Defence Committee kept a close eye on its community. Under the Chairmanship of Lou Cuppens, the committee continued to look at the implementation of the NVC, the military’s vision for the future (specifically equipment and compensation), its role in Afghanistan and proper recognition of service through such symbols as

the Wound Medal. The committee maintained a strong presence with the other major players through its involvement with the Conference of Defence Associations and its close liaison with National Defence Headquarters command principals.

 

The National Honours Committee chaired by Les Rowbottom kept its focus on promoting recognition of Legion members through the Canadian National Honours Submission system. Submissions were received and forwarded to the applicable agency in all areas except Decorations for Bravery. Two Minister of Veterans Affairs Commendations processed by the Committee were awarded in 2007.

 

The Ritual and Awards Committee chaired by George O’Dair formulated two resolutions for presentation to the 2008 convention on Veterans’ Unity. One resolution spoke to the issue of wearing alternative (military) headdress complete with (military) cap badge— with Legion dress and the other addressed the potential for wearing a military unit blazer badge on the lower right pocket of the Legion blazer.

 

The committee looked at three suggested methods for formally folding a Canadian Flag for presentation. One format was chosen and diagrams and instructions are included in the December 2007 revised Ritual and Insignia Manual. The Committee began its review of the Honours and Awards Manual with the goal of publishing an updated version.

 

The appropriateness of carrying the North Atlantic Treaty Organization flag as an official part of the Legion Colours was reviewed and the DEC concurred with its recommendation to include it in the official Legion Colours.

 

The committee continued to meet monthly in order to process applications for awards as they were received and had a zero backlog of applications after last year’s submissions were reviewed. In 2007, 162 awards were approved including 32 Palm Leaves to the Meritorious Service Medal, seven Palm Leaves to the Meritorious Service Award, 69 MSMs, 21 MSAs, 11 Media Awards and 22 Friendship Awards. There were 23 submissions returned for various reasons.

 

While this was being done, Dominion Command was also witnessing substantial growth in the Supply Department. Orders filled grew by over 10 per cent to well over 19,000. The growth was fuelled by a strong response to new clothing products, the commemorative items for the 90th Anniversary of Vimy Ridge and the We Support Our Troops initiative. The gold We Support Our Troops lapel pin needed four additional shipments to meet demand. Despite this growth, the focus for the department remains on service and responsiveness.

 

Over the course of the year, improvements were made to enhance customer service. The inventory-control system was upgraded and bar-coding introduced to the shipping labels which improved the ability of the department to ship orders of in-stock items within 24 hours. In addition to improved service in catalogue sales, a change in the process of filling poppy and wreath orders was also instituted. Provincial commands could now send orders directly to Dominion Command rather than the Legion’s contracted manufacturer.

 

All of the above was achieved as the staff settled into a new building. It, too, was made more beautiful by the addition of 1,000 special Liberator tulip bulbs presented to the Legion in October by the Netherlands Embassy.

 

Later in the year the Legion hosted a very significant meeting with 14 other veterans associations in Canada to discuss developing a closer relationship and the way ahead for all of them. The Legion’s Committee on Governance, Representation and Command Structure was also busy preparing its report to help define what the organization needs to do in the future to guarantee its survival.

 

As the year of anniversaries and conventions came to a close, Dominion Command started gearing up for this year’s dominion convention, and the 90th Anniversary Commemoration of the Armistice in 1918. Given the resolutions that were passed at the provincial command conventions and the events scheduled, it promises to be as eventful as the past.

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