Continuing to stand strong
The pandemic has changed the way they do things, but members of The Royal Canadian Legion’s Nova Scotia/Nunavut Command have continued to make positive contributions to their communities.
Delegates who gathered in Truro, N.S., Oct. 8-11 for the command’s 55th convention—themed “Standing Strong for Veterans and their Families”—looked back at what had been achieved and planned for the future.
“I would like to congratulate our district commanders, our zone commanders and all the branch members for this dedication in keeping branches open, in keeping our veterans protected, in making sure they are looked after and that they’re not in harm’s way, and if they were, they reached out and assisted them,” said outgoing president Marion Fryday-Cook.
She noted that even though COVID-19 resulted in temporary closures, not a single branch was lost.
She also pointed out that they learned the value of Zoom meetings and will continue to use them. She thanked members and staff for their help during her term as president, becoming choked up when acknowledging the assistance provided by executive director Valerie Mitchell-Veinotte.
Because of pandemic restrictions, there were no presentations from outside groups at the convention. There were 118 accredited delegates with 99 proxies who gathered at The Inn on Prince conference centre.
“We do need to stay safe,” said Legion Grand President Larry Murray. “We need to be careful, but we need to move forward and overcome some of the inertia, and this convention is a big part of that in the Legion.
“Personally, and on behalf of Dominion President Bruce [Julian], I’d like to thank you and to pass on a big naval ‘Bravo Zulu’ for your outstanding efforts in stepping up so generously over the past 18 months, going above and beyond to make sure people were looked after, despite the challenges.”
He pointed out that in 2021, the Legion commemorated the 100th anniversary of the poppy as a symbol of remembrance, and the national poppy campaign now raises almost $20 million each year to help veterans and communities.
“From combating homelessness to helping veterans fill out forms to get the benefits they deserve, the work is incredibly important,” said Murray. He added that the Legion had been attracting new members, but that because of the pandemic, the growth couldn’t be sustained. New members, both veterans and civilians, are now needed.
The Nova Scotia/Nunavut Command service bureau handled 877 Veterans Affairs Canada files in 2019 and 813 in 2020. Numbers for 2021 were similar at the time of the convention. The only number that was down was that for home visits, due to COVID-19.
Legion members support service dog training (Paws Fur Thought), operate the Veteran Farm Project Society, assist those in need through the benevolent fund, provide bursaries and scholarships, and support cadets and amateur sport.
They also assist the Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League, which supports veterans and widows in several Caribbean countries. During the convention, a collection raised $952 for the RCEL.
One of the difficulties faced in 2020 was that volunteers were unable to operate in Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation stores for poppy sales. Don McCumber, chair of the poppy and remembrance committee, reported that one volunteer at a time was permitted to attend each poppy box in 2021.
Nova Scotia’s Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage provided the Legion with a grant of $75,000 in March. Nova Scotia/Nunavut Command executive agreed to apply the grant to the Command Poppy Trust Fund, which supports the command service bureau.
Delegates debated a resolution to have the Canadian flag replaced by the poppy on Nova Scotia licence plates. Steve Wessel and Ron Trowsdale, past presidents of Nova Scotia/Nunavut Command, both said the licence plate was designed to thank living veterans, so the flag was the appropriate symbol.
“It took me and others over 15 months of negotiations with provincial committees and the minister of the day to get this design and the legal documents agreed to before the first plate ever hit the road, and that plate hit the road in February 2003,” said Wessel.
There are now more than 15,000 veterans’ plates on vehicles in Nova Scotia. An amendment to the resolution was made, to have both the flag and the poppy on plates. The amendment and the resolution were both defeated.
This year marks the 20th year since Nova Scotia and Nunavut joined to form Nova Scotia/Nunavut Command. Clifford Laurin, representing District G, read a letter from John Graham, former district commander in Nunavut. Graham said the spirit of comradeship is alive and well in both Nunavut branches and the Legion has remained highly visible and made a positive impact.
During the election of officers, Donna McRury was acclaimed as president. She and Marion Fryday-Cook were nominated but Fryday-Cook declined.
Merv Steadman was the only nominee for the first vice president position and was acclaimed. George Della Valle and Don McCumber were nominated for second vice president and, following a vote by ballot, Della Valle was elected. Conrad Gilbert was the sole nominee for the position of treasurer and was acclaimed. There were two nominees for the position of chair but, following the withdrawal of Douglas Moore, Tom Young was acclaimed.
“I would first like to thank you for allowing me to become the president of NS/NU Command,” said McRury. “When I started out with The Royal Canadian Legion, it was my way of saying thank you to all veterans for signing their name on the dotted line—to serve our country—and you’ve never asked for anything in return. I was and will always be a very proud Canadian and it’s due to the work of veterans. I’m in awe of you. “As I stand before you today, I can only promise you one thing and that will be to give my best.”
The 2023 convention is being planned for Whitney Pier in Sydney. The date has not been finalized but is expected to be in May.