Dedication and determination in New Brunswick
Delegates met for the 85th New Brunswick Command convention at the Beaverbrook Kin Centre in Miramichi, N.B., on Sept. 18-19.
The opening ritual was conducted by New Brunswick Command President Terry Campbell, who welcomed delegates and offered greetings to guests. Dominion President Bruce Julian declared the convention open.
In the president’s report, Campbell outlined the command’s accomplishments during his two-year tenure. The organization worked to remain active while facing the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly with the numerous and ever-changing rules, he said. Technology was the answer and Zoom meetings became the norm.
“We have weathered the storm and come out the other side much stronger,” said Campbell.
He gave credit to Legion members. “Without our members, we would be unable to deliver programs of remembrance and support our veterans, their dependents and youth. And be the go-to organization in our communities.”
In anticipation of the 100th anniversary of The Royal Canadian Legion from June 2025 to July 2026, Campbell requested that district commanders submit candidates for the centenary committee.
New Brunswick Command received $778,754 from Veterans Affairs Canada through the Veteran Organizations Emergency Support Fund. This was in addition to $123,222 received from the Dominion Command Branch Emergency Funds. The funds went to New Brunswick branches to help them keep operating.
“We had a very successful 2020 poppy campaign,” said provincial poppy and remembrance committee chair Daryl Alward. “I thought with the pandemic, we would have received less.” The campaign raised $950,000.
All branches managed to stay afloat despite the pandemic, said provincial executive director Jack Clayton. “Even with closed doors for the first eight months, then with scaled-down openings, Legionnaires were still able to assist their communities,” he said. “This shows the dedication and determination of our members.”
The command office was closed to walk-in traffic, but provisions were put in place to stay operational. Clayton raised the alarm on declining membership: New Brunswick Command membership was 6,618 as of Aug. 16, 2021, down from 7,358 the previous year. “We all have to recruit new members and retain our current members,” he said.
There were two new members of note, Clayton said. One was a 96-year-old from Saint Andrews, N.B., who wanted to “enlist” in the Legion. He said he flew 40 missions as a tail gunner in 1943-1945.
The other was Lieutenant-Governor Brenda Murphy. Murphy and her partner Linda Doyle attended the convention on Saturday afternoon and placed a wreath at the cenotaph service.
Gary McDade presented the treasurer’s report. “During the COVID era, branches came to realize how vulnerable they are to any major disruption.” New Brunswick Command reported a surplus of $311,037 in 2020, down from $368,087 the previous year.
Julian brought greetings from Dominion Command and then asked delegates to come forward with their donations to the Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League. Delegates raised $19,577 to help veterans and widows in Caribbean countries.
Jean Stevens reported on the provincial poster and literary contests. Caleb Pettinger, a Grade 5 student from Saint John, N.B., submitted his black-and-white poster to Lancaster, N.B., Branch and won first prize in the primary category, then placed first at the provincial level. He advanced again and placed second at the national level. New Brunswick had two first-place finishes, one second and two thirds at the national level in 2021.
Padre Peter Gillies presented the bursary report. The committee awarded 20 bursaries in 2020 and 22 in 2021. More than 80 applications were received each year. A past recipient donated $1,000 in honour of her two grandfathers who had served. The donation was to be used in the bursary program.
During the Cadet Medal of Excellence report, Sgt.-at-Arms Henry D’Eon explained that, due to the pandemic, the process for awarding medals was handled differently this year: the Legion received a list of recipients’ names but not the application forms. Steps have been taken to ensure the Legion reviews applications next year. Nevertheless, this year’s medals were issued.
Murphy addressed delegates on Saturday afternoon, noting that many Canadians have ties to the armed services. “Through gatherings like this one, and the many activities and commemorative services organized by the Legion, we keep their memory alive.”
Inclement weather kept the cenotaph service indoors: wreaths were placed by Murphy, MP Pat Finnigan, member of the legislative assembly Lisa Harris, Julian, Campbell, Stevens, Miramichi mayor Adam Lordon and Peter Murphy, president of Miramichi Branch.
On the second day of the convention, more committee reports were given and a new Provincial Executive Council was elected.
The New Brunswick Command Ladies Auxiliary also faced pandemic-related challenges, said Past President Jean Stevens, reporting on behalf of President Susan Brooks. “We have had to reduce meetings to conference calls, e-mails and correspondence. Our convention for 2020 was postponed to 2022,” she said.
Tony Chevalier, chair of the reopening committee, told delegates that the committee was formed in April 2020 to ensure all branches followed provincial directives and guidelines during reopening. All branches prepared plans and the committee reviewed and approved them.
The resolutions committee report by Steve Gourdeau included five motions to amend the provincial bylaws. Three carried: a change in wording in Article II, Section 203 from “Senior Elected Officers” to “Senior Executive Officers”; the addition in Article II, Section 204 of “the Deputy Commanders of the following Districts”; and the deletion from Article II, Section 223 of “the Deputy District Commander.”
Elections took place next. There were 95 accredited delegates present and 199 proxy votes. A total of 122 attended the convention, including 18 guests and nine observers. Julian chaired the election.
Honorary President John Ladouceur was acclaimed. Terry Campbell declined a nomination to stand for another term and Daryl Alward was acclaimed as the new provincial president.
Leo Doiron declined a nomination for first vice and Tony Chevalier was acclaimed. Harold Defazio was elected second vice over Leo Doiron. Gary McDade remained treasurer. Gourdeau was acclaimed as chair.
After the elections, a special presentation was made to Marianne Harris for her service as the New Brunswick command correspondent for Legion Magazine.
The colour party assembled, the flagpoles were lifted from the stands, and the 85th NB Command convention came to a close. The next convention is to be hosted by Oromocto, N.B., Branch in September 2023.