Nova Scotia/Nunavut Command 49th Convention

July 29, 2009 by Tom MacGregor

Nova Scotia Opts For Change

Following the example of the dominion convention in Ottawa last year, Nova Scotia/Nunavut Command adopted a new structure and a reduction in the number of people making up its Provincial Executive Council when delegates met in Dartmouth for the 49th convention, May 17-19.

Former president Clarence Dawe was chosen to be the one to take delegates through a six-page document arguing for the restructuring formula that had been endorsed by the executive committee the day before the convention started. Dawe was elected as the Dominion Executive Council representative at the 2007 convention. However, that position was eliminated at dominion level with the restructuring that took place in 2008.

“The need to downsize, restructure and reorganize in order to reduce costs and streamline our organization has become an absolute necessity in these times. As we are all very aware, our membership numbers are dropping quite quickly, not only here in our command, but right across Canada,” said Dawe.

“In our command, membership is quickly approaching the 26,000 mark—26,318—that’s down from 33,000 only 10 years ago. Nova Scotia/Nunavut Command’s share of the per capita pie is currently $12.10 per member. With a loss of nearly 7,000 members over the past 10 years that equates to $85,000 less revenue to run our command programs,” he pointed out.

“With 25 members, our executive council is overcrowded to the point where it is interfering with the business process of the command…. Our membership has decreased by over 21 per cent in the past 10 years but the size of our executive council remains the same at 25.”

In concluding the report, Dawe quoted Charles Darwin who said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

In the end command President David Blanchard and Chairman Steve Wessel, who was chairman of The Royal Canadian Legion Commission on Governance, Representation and Command Structure which presented changes at the dominion convention, put through four resolutions to make the restructuring come into place.

Under the new structure the 15 existing zones are grouped into seven new districts. While the zones still have zone commanders, only the district commanders would be represented on the N.S./Nunavut Executive Council.

Also, the position of vice-chairman was eliminated. This meant that the Provincial Executive Council would now consist of the president, first vice, second vice, treasurer, chairman, immediate past president and seven district commanders for a total of 13 members, down from the previous 25.

Other measures passed in related resolutions ended a stipend paid to executive council members, had the sub-executive cease to meet as a separate body, and called on the provincial executive to meet three times a year in a non-convention year and twice in a convention year.

Obviously delegates were well aware of the changes coming and in the end there was some discussion of wording but virtually little debate.

Whether it was going to be that easy was hard to say the day before when delegates met in a thick maritime fog to parade to the cenotaph outside of Cole Harbour Place, the hockey arena where the convention would be held. Cole Harbour is a village within the Regional Municipality of Halifax and only a short distance from Centennial Branch in Dartmouth which was host for the convention.

The guest of honour for the convention was Nunavut Commissioner Ann Meekitjuk Hanson who placed a wreath representing the territory. Other wreaths were placed by Nova Scotia/Nunavut Command

President Blanchard, Dominion Treasurer Michael Cook and local dignitaries. Cook was accompanied by Dominion President Wilf Edmond who was attending the convention as a former president of Nova Scotia Command.

Once the parade and ceremony ended, delegates entered into the rink. Wessel, as master of ceremonies, let them know where they were. “Look around you, comrades. This is the rink where Sidney Crosby grew up playing hockey. If there are any Pittsburgh Penguins fans here, they might want to think about taking a piece of concrete with them.”

Meekitjuk Hanson spoke of the close ties Nunavut has to Halifax. “In the 1950s and 1960s our people used to be brought by ship to hospitals in Halifax. The ship C.D. Howe came to give us our medical inspections all over the Eastern Arctic. Some people would be on the ship for three or four months and when they got off the ship they were in Halifax,” she said.

She then declared the 49th Nova Scotia/ Nunavut convention officially open.

Business sessions for the 243 accredited delegates began the next day with President Blanchard reviewing his two years in office. “One of the highlights during my term was the response we received from the branches for Camp Hill’s, (Veterans Memorial Building) dining room chairs project during our 90th anniversary celebration of the end of the First World War. We received enough funds to pay for all the chairs and still had money left over to donate to other Veterans Affairs Canada units in Nova Scotia. Plaques have been placed in all these units to commemorate this special occasion.”

Blanchard also said that the torch used during the national Remembrance Day ceremonies in Ottawa where First World War veteran Jack Babcock handed the torch to a Second World War veteran and on to a Korean War veteran, a peacekeeping veterans and a veteran of Afghanistan was from Nova Scotia/ Nunavut Command. “That torch is now on display at Legion House in Ottawa, where it will remain,” he said.

Cook brought concerns from Dominion Command. He said the veterans community is more divided today than when organizations came together in the unity meeting of 1925. “We are now in discussions with other veterans groups asking that they come together under one banner and it would be that of The Royal Canadian Legion. That way, we would be a very united group when we meet with Veterans Affairs Canada,” said Cook.

“Branches should contact the Military Family Resource Centres. Poppy funds can now be used to help these families,” said Cook. “I’m not sure that they know we will offer the same level service that we offered a Second World War or Korean War veteran.”

Cook also mentioned that the Legion spends $150,000 a year the RCL Troop Morale Fund that provides gift certificates for a coffee and doughnut to those serving in Afghanistan at the Tim Hortons outlet at Kandahar Air Field.

Greetings were also brought by Greg Kerr, a Nova Scotia member of Parliament and parliamentary secretary to Minister of Veterans Affairs Greg Thompson. Kerr confirmed that Thompson was not present because he was with National Defence Minister Peter MacKay on a surprise visit to Afghanistan.

Although there was no call for an increase in the per capita, Treasurer Jack Hatcher still warned, “This has been a very difficult two years for your command with the low return on investments and, of course, the dropping of our membership. However, on a lighter note, our fundraisers—the Veterans Recognition Booklet and the Lotto Sweep—continue, as in past years, to enable us to continue with our ongoing projects.”

Membership Chairman Jean Marie Deveaux called on members to publicize the Legion in their community. “Photos and stories about your branch activities in the Torch and Legion Magazine will help to encourage new members to join. Placing articles and ads in local weekly newspapers and church bulletins is also helpful. But the very best way is by word of mouth,” she said.

John Brewer of Ashby Branch in Sydney who was the command representative on the 2007 Royal Canadian Legion Youth Leaders’ Pilgrimage of Remembrance gave an overview of his trip to the battlefields and cemeteries in Northwestern Europe. “I was awestruck by what I saw our people did on D-Day. But I was also struck by what has been accomplished in North Africa, Hong Kong, Korea and, of course, Afghanistan.”

Edmond, who had been awarded the Minister of Veterans Affairs Commend­ation in Halifax during the convention, addressed delegates and spoke of the poverty he had seen in the Caribbean while on a visit in support of the Legion’s work with the Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League. Delegates later responded with donations from the floor totalling more than $6,085.

Delegates supported a resolution that would ask Dominion Command to allow poppy funds to be used to supply school libraries with books concerning Canada’s military history but defeated a resolution that would have created a special medal for service officers.

A non-concurred resolution from Eastern Marine Branch in Gaetz Brook was brought back to the floor calling for someone who has been convicted of theft or misappropriation of branch funds to be automatically expelled from a branch.

Jay Tofflemire explained that an RCMP investigation at his branch had caused a lot of suffering among family and friends. In the end, the member pleaded guilty to theft but was given a suspended sentence. The president then had to go through the process of expelling the member. “When you start the process all over again through the bylaws, it just opens up a lot of old wounds…. Yet we must show the public that we will apply the highest penalty,” he said. When Wessel asked for a vote, the resolution carried.

Cook also ran the elections, which went smoothly. First Vice Les Nash of Springhill Branch was acclaimed president. Second Vice Jean Marie Deveaux of Port Hawkesbury Branch was acclaimed first vice.

The downsizing of the executive left Vice-Chairman Ron Trowsdale of Colchester Branch in Truro without a position. He chose to run for second vice in a contest with Roger Purnell of Bridgewater Branch and Tom Waters of Atlantic Branch in Prospect. Trowsdale was declared the winner after the first ballot.

Treasurer Jack Hatcher of Calais Branch in Lower Sackville faced a challenge for re-election from Jay Tofflemire of Eastern Marine Branch. Hatcher was returned to the position. Wessel of the host Centennial Branch was unopposed in his bid for re-election as chairman.

Addressing delegates after his installation as president, Nash said he joined the Legion in the 1950s and the next year was asked to run for the executive. “I have been on some executive in the Legion ever since,” he said. “I think I owe it all to (former dominion chairman) Pat Watkins who was the person who asked me to join the Legion in the first place.”.

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