British Columbia/Yukon Command 49th Convention

October 2, 2009 by Adam Day

Holding The Line In British Columbia

It would have been hard for British Columbia/Yukon Command to pick a more scenic locale than Trail, B.C., for their 49th provincial convention, held June 14-17 amid the slumping Kootenay Mountains in the still-wild southern interior section of the province.

Despite the rough-and-tumble frontier atmosphere, it was to be a convention of moderate restructuring and gentle change. Dave Sinclair of Britannia Branch in Victoria was the only nominee for president and he accepted. Marc Tremblay of Armstrong Branch is the newly elected first vice. Both were already serving in the positions after the mid-term retirement of President Red Thibodeau. And while the Provincial Executive Council was reduced in size quite considerably, the conventioneers held the line on most other changes, defeating a majority of the change-seeking resolutions.

The convention began according to tradition Sunday, with a wreath-placing ceremony and parade in downtown Trail. Key dignitaries were present, including Dominion Past President Jack Frost, Dominion Chairman Mike Cook, former dominion president Mary Ann Burdett and B.C. Silver Cross Mother Roxanne Priede alongside her husband John Priede. Their son, military photographer Darrell Priede, died after the helicopter he was riding in went down in Afghanistan in 2007.

Also on hand at the opening ceremonies was British Columbia Lieutenant-Governor Steven L. Point, a member and former chief of the Skowkale First Nation. “My grandfather was a war chief, we know about fighting, we know about dying,” said Point. “A fallen feather in my culture means a fighter killed in battle, and so remembering soldiers like Priede, who gave his life in the service of our country, is the greatest thing we can do. Her Majesty is served well by your service, Canada is served well.”

The convention itself was held in Trail’s Cominco Arena, which was all done up for the occasion to include a replica of the National War Memorial and Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, on loan from the British Columbia Veterans Commemorative Association.

In an unusual but ultimately necessary move, President Sinclair began proceedings on Monday morning by giving an extensive overview of the command’s financial and governance situation before launching immediately into a lengthy resolution and debate concerning the restructuring of the Provincial Executive Council.

The resolution as distributed noted that the current PEC consisted of 32 members and was essentially the same size as it was in 1984, when the command’s membership was 113,276. The resolution argued that since the membership had dropped to 68,403 in 2007, the PEC should be similarly diminished by cutting six “at large” executive committee positions and by eliminating the position of command second vice and replacing it with two vice-president positions.

Before a vote could take place on the initial resolution, an amendment was brought to the floor to add another vice-president position to the resolution. A vote was taken and the amendment was defeated.

The resolution then passed and would become effective immediately, thus changing the electoral situation at the Trail convention.

Shortly after, a credential report was read. There were 307 delegates present carrying 415 proxy votes for a total voting strength of 722. There were also 22 observers.

In the election for first vice, Marc Tremblay won over Gary Peters of Seaview Centennial Branch in Lantzville.

The election for the two positions of vice-president was widely contested and featured no less than 10 hopefuls, including incumbent Bob Brady of Aldergrove Branch, Bev Croft of South Vancouver Branch, Al Fleury of Public Service Branch in Victoria, Brian Kirkaldy of Terrace Branch, Dave Laxton of Whitehorse Branch in the Yukon, Gary Peters, Harvey Truax of Nakusp Branch, Al Turner of Mackenzie Branch, Bonnie West of Port McNeill Branch and Chris Yerburgh of Oliver Branch. In the end, Brady and Fleury were elected.

Laurie Meadows of Windermere Branch in Invermere and Glenn Hodge of Trail Branch sought the position of treasurer, with Hodge being declared the winner.

In the election for chairman, incumbent Ed Findlater of Okanagan Falls Branch defeated Gordon Grierson of Comox Branch.

Early on Monday, Frost took to the microphone to tell the conventioneers of the latest news from Dominion Command. One of the central themes of Frost’s speech was the issue of unity and acceptance among veterans groups and even within the Legion itself. “A veteran is a veteran is a veteran,” said Frost, hoping to dispel some of the divisive attitudes out there which attempt to label some as more worthy of the title of veteran.

“The Legion represents all veterans. We’ve done it in the past, we’re doing it today, and we’ll continue to represent the new veterans tomorrow. Soldiers today are not exactly breaking our doors down to join the Legion, but lifestyles have changed and maybe in the future they will want to join.”

Frost went on to discuss the ongoing unity talks being held among Canada’s veterans groups. “To be quite frank, I don’t think they’re going to go very far,” he said, “but all the groups agree that we should have a similar approach to getting attention from the government.”

The convention then received a special presentation from Warrant Officer David Schultz of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry who returned from Kandahar in 2008 and had prepared a slideshow of his tour for the crowd.

“Canadian soldiers are fighting, killing and dying in Afghanistan,” he told the Legionnaires as his pictures flashed up on the screen. “It’s not peacekeeping over there, it’s all out war.”

After his return, Schultz transferred into the PPCLI regimental veterans care cell and is now one of a number of Canadian Forces members actively working to ensure that modern veterans are being taken care of and that nobody slips through the cracks.

In other resolution news, the delegates carried a resolution to reinstate the dipping of all the flags carried by the colour party, in keeping with their long-time tradition.

The floor then rejected a resolution that would have seen the cessation of the tradition of paying for past presidents to attend convention. After some lengthy debate, the opinion that the past presidents made many worthy contributions seemed to sway the voters.

The delegates also notably rejected a resolution to increase the command’s per capita tax for the 2011 membership year. While the current per capita stands at $8, and while the per capita has not been increased since 2002, the delegates indicated by their vote that the proposed $2 increase was too steep.

In other news, it was announced that the B.C./Yukon Command office is downsizing and moving from Vancouver to a new location in nearby Burnaby. The old office was not only expensive to maintain, but the neighbourhood it was located in had, in recent years, become unsuitable. The move to the new headquarters is expected to save money in the long term.

The delegation received a lengthy presentation about a relatively new project called Honour House, which is an initiative of Vancouver’s Royal United Services Institute intended to provide a place for veterans and their families to stay while undergoing treatment. B.C./Yukon Command showed its support for the effort by presenting Honour House with a $10,000 donation.

On the topic of donations, the floor responded in the best possible way to the traditional call for donations to the Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League, putting up an impressive $12,911 in a short time.

The Ladies Auxiliary gave what had to be the most entertaining report of the convention, detailing how they saved more than $10,000 by holding their convention on a cruise.

The highlight of the trip was apparently Gold Rush Night, which saw President Dave Sinclair dancing in a ladies dress. Many pictures were shown on the big screen, much to the amused delight of the whole crowd.

The convention then concluded with the traditional installation ceremony and a short speech by the incoming president. “With the changes you’ve implemented,” said Sinclair, “we will be leaner and closer to the general membership than ever before.”

Sinclair then went on to focus on the need for strong communications within the command and among members. “Too many times I’ve heard from our members ‘I didn’t know about that.’ We have to work harder to change this shortcoming,” he said.

“We have to keep the new members that we have. We must engage new members and make them feel part of the team. This is the responsibility for all of us. We have many new faces and I’m sure we’ll have many new ideas…. If anyone has a new idea, I want to hear from you…. For an organization to move forward it must continually change itself or it will wither and die. I love this organization much too much to let that happen.”

The next B.C./Yukon Command convention will be held in Penticton in June 2011 and it will be a joint convention alongside the command’s Ladies Auxiliary.

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