Veterans’ council proposed for all levels of the Legion

February 4, 2018 by Sharon Adams

Delegates at New Brunswick Command’s 83rd convention held Sept. 23-24 in Fredericton supported a proposal for establishment of a veterans’ council within The Royal Canadian Legion.

Such a council would help attract younger military members and retain current veteran members, said veteran Sonny McCarron of Cape Tormentine Branch.

“There are a lot of negative feelings among veterans about the Legion,” he said in a presentation punctuated several times by loud ovations. “The only way we can change that is to become more proactive…more inclusive, by making them part of the decision-making process on veterans’ issues.

Dominion Chairman Bill Chafe (left) congratulates newly installed Second Vice Terry Campbell (centre) and First Vice Sonny McCarron.
Sharon Adams

“Our veterans do not want people who have never served involved in decisions that affect their lives and families,” he said.

The 130 accredited delegates unanimously voted to support McCarron’s proposal to establish a veterans’ council—veterans elected by veterans, sitting on branch, zone, district, provincial and dominion executives.

The council would not change other elected officers’ roles, said McCarron, but enhance veterans’ status within the Legion and provide a forum for veterans to speak to and help one another.

A resolution will be prepared for debate at the 2018 dominion convention.

The opening ceremony featured greetings from Deputy Premier Stephen Horsman, who congratulated the command on its record in advocating for veterans. Dominion Chairman Bill Chafe declared convention open.

Among those placing wreaths in a ceremony at the local cenotaph were Lieutenant-Governor Jocelyne Roy-Vienneau, Chafe, New Brunswick Command President Harold Harper, Fredericton L.A. President Joan Caverhill and Fredericton Branch President Don Swain.

“We cannot forget the lives lost and sacrifices made,” Roy-Vienneau said before the parade. She thanked the Legion for promoting “not the nostalgia of war, but the reality of it…sacrifices are still being made.”

As the business session got underway, President Harper reported that finances are stable, “but need to be monitored carefully.”  Tough and unpopular decisions have been made, including restricting travel, meeting by teleconference and reducing staff.

Those changes have made possible yearly $75,000 contributions to investments, ensuring ongoing funding of the youth leadership and track and field programs, reported Treasurer Gary McDade.

The command’s net worth has increased to $1,276,208 from $1,030,588 in the past two and a half years, he said, and finished with more good news—no per-capita increase is required.

Clayton Saunders reported that the Military Service Recognition Book generated $87,006 to September in 2017. Publisher Mark Fenety reported that for the seventh consecutive year, the book would be bringing in more than $93,000 for the command.

John Ladouceur is installed as the new president.
Sharon Adams

Public reaction to Legion marketing campaigns has been mostly positive, Chafe said after screening a video targeted at increasing membership. But with a higher profile, “we all see and hear more negative comments than ever before.” Dominion Command responds to concerns first by explaining why the Legion has taken a certain position, then focusing on its long history of doing great things for communities and veterans.

“We should use some of the complaints to make changes to our culture to ensure that everything we do demonstrates the Legion’s core values—service, integrity, respect, loyalty and teamwork—values shared by many Canadians,” said Chafe.

There has been a steady increase in renewals, “however, we are still losing members at an alarming rate,” reported Membership Chair Jack Clayton. As of September, membership in the province stood at 7,936, down from 8,448 in 2016 and 8,826 in 2014.

Veterans, Service and Seniors Chair Brian Roberts reported that since 2014, 37 veterans in need have received funding—from poppy or benevolent funds or the homeless veterans fund—or assistance from branches and service officers and referrals to VAC.

Delegates endorsed the Battle of the Atlantic Place project planned for Halifax, following a presentation by Gary Reddy of the Canadian Naval Memorial Trust.

The project, estimated to cost up to $225 million, will describe Canada’s contributions to the longest battle of the Second World War, which claimed 4,600 Canadians. It will also trace how the wartime generation went on to transform the country into a modern industrial society.

Washer toss, a game similar to horseshoes, was added to the list of provincial-level member sports. “New Brunswick will be ahead of the game when it eventually does become a national sport,” said Sports Chair Gary McDade.

President Harold Harper places a wreath.
Sharon Adams

Delegates heard a number of presentations, including a report by Buster Rogers of Hampton Branch of the Legion’s Pilgrimage of Remembrance to European monuments, graveyards and battle sites where Canadians fought and are buried.

A status update on ongoing changes to VAC’s benefits and programs was delivered by Maryse Savoie, acting director-general of field operations. All nine regional offices have been reopened, and more than 240 extra staff hired.

Duane Johnson introduced delegates to the new Legion Operational Stress Injury Section. It is not trying to replace the service bureau or DND/VAC’s social support programs. “We do not act as case managers, fill out or file forms or provide mental health care. But we will connect veterans and families with needed support” such as therapists, treatment and community support.

Chafe conducted the elections, which proceeded speedily. First Vice John Ladouceur of Oromocto Branch was acclaimed president. Also acclaimed were Honorary President Paul Poirier of Herman Good VC Branch in Bathurst and Chairman Jack Clayton of Lancaster Branch in Saint John.

Sonny McCarron was elected first vice over Brian Roberts of Kennebecasis Branch in Rothesay, whose name was then added to the list of those nominated for second vice.

Roberts, who had served two terms as second vice, declined nomination. Terry Campbell of Peninsula Branch in Clifton Royal was elected over Daryl Alward of Marysville Branch in Fredericton.

Gary McDade of Fredericton Branch, who has served as treasurer for a decade, was re-elected over Clayton Saunders of Petitcodiac Branch.

Incoming president Ladouceur struck an optimistic note, saying, “I believe we can increase membership by two per cent over the next two years. This is a team effort.  Everybody can work together to promote the values of the Legion.”

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