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Saskatchewan Command 45th Convention

Delegates Show Support For Sports Events

Many of the 175 Legion delegates gained first-hand experience of an issue that weaved through many challenges on the agenda of Saskatchewan Command’s 45th convention, Oct. 17-19. The host town, Nipawin, population 5,000, is about a five-hour drive from Regina, 379 kilometres to the south.

Long-distance travel, coupled with aging members and shrinking budgets, has contributed to cutting attendance at meetings, rallies and sports events.

Sports Committee Chairman Brent Wignes said it has become an issue for the beleaguered sports program. “We must continue…to develop a program that is appealing and financially viable,” he said. Members have complained about not getting timely information, the length of cribbage playoffs, decreased participation due to lengthy travel and about event no-shows that cause unnecessary work, and perhaps financial losses, for host branches.

Three resolutions to address these problems carried unanimously. Two ensure the branch receives registration fees for both zone and district events as early as possible, and that branch costs will be deducted before cancellation refunds are issued. The third resolution allows for a wild-card draw to fill vacant positions at most provincial playdowns.

A resolution to restrict cribbage players to one event in order to shorten playoffs was soundly defeated. “We would not opt to attend these events if they are far away and we are restricted to playing only one event,” said Patti Paul of Dr. Harold Anderson Memorial TVS Branch in Saskatoon, who placed second this year in the Dominion Command Cribbage Championship singles event.

It would destroy the program totally in Nipawin where low numbers of participants dictate play in multiple events in order to have a competition, added Nipawin Branch President Verda Hoppe.

A resolution allowing accreditation of deputy zone and district commanders at zone and district rallies and provincial convention also was carried. This means those deputies will get to vote at those events. This frees up positions for branch representations and should increase event attendance.

If inclusivity is the key to participation, organizers ensured everyone could take part in the formal program, which began Saturday afternoon with a ceremony at the cenotaph located next to the Nipawin Branch hall, followed by a parade to the opening ceremonies in the Central Park Elementary School auditorium several blocks away.

Placing wreaths at the cenotaph were Dominion Vice-President Gordon Moore, Member of Parliament Randy Hoback and Saskatchewan Command President John Pott. About 150 delegates and guests then marched in the parade. Golf carts brought up the rear, allowing those who couldn’t march the distance to take part. The opening ceremony was noteworthy for honouring five guests from the American Legion by including singing of the American national anthem and America The Beautiful.

Members of The Royal Canadian Legion “have always been there for Canada, in times of war and in times of peace,” Hoback said on behalf of Veterans Affairs Minister Greg Thompson. ”Your fingerprints are clearly visible.” Member of the Legislative Assembly Fred Bradshaw brought greetings from the province, and Mayor Glen Day represented the town of Nipawin.
Sunday morning delegates got down to business immediately.

“I had three main priorities…during my term of office,” said President John Pott—recruitment and retention of members, better communication and better attendance at zone and district rallies and convention. “To some degree I have failed,” he said, citing continuing low attendance at rallies. Offsetting that, he reported dominion convention passed six of the command’s nine proposed resolutions, and Pat Varga, a former provincial president, was elected dominion first vice.

Membership losses seem to be levelling off, but non-renewals are an issue, reported Peter Piper, membership committee chairman. “Last year we lost 433 to death and 108 to non-renewals. Why? Some are from power struggles followed by petty bickering, then hard feelings. We need every one of you for this organization to remain viable and strong,” he said. If branches follow the procedures manual and general bylaws, “I feel some of these problems would go away.”

Saskatchewan Command continues to operate in the black, reporting a $50,834 excess of revenues over expenses in 2008, thanks in part to the overwhelming success of its Commemorative History Book, reported Piper, chairman of the Ways and Means and Fundraising Committee. “Over the last two years we have received $268,760 in donations and advertising for these books,” he said, and Fenety Marketing Services will produce another book to be distributed in 2011. “This should keep us financially sound for a few more years,” he said, “but we must keep our thoughts on other ways of raising money.”

Piper, who was also first vice, was acclaimed president, as was incumbent Chairman Ray Marjoram of North Battleford Branch. Brent Wignes of Dr. Harold Anderson Memorial TVS Branch in Saskatoon was elected first vice over fellow vice-president Dick Wells of Tompkins Branch.

Four candidates ran for the two positions of vice-president: Wells, and Ray Hickson of North Battleford Branch won. Evert Whelan of Birch Hills Branch and Ken Box of Grenfell Branch also ran.

Piper of Tecumseh Stoughton Branch in Stoughton told delegates communication is a top priority. Lack of communication is “one of the biggest downfalls of any organization,” he said, promising to “activate a better two-way flow of communications.” Building membership is also a key priority and he promised “we will do our utmost to carry on operating in the black.”

Dominion Vice-President Gordon Moore brought delegates up to speed on efforts to bring all veterans organizations in under the Legion umbrella. “When we go to Ottawa to fight for something for all veterans—old and new—we have to stand as one. If we don’t we’ll fail.” However, each organization has its own idea of how best to proceed. Negotiations continue.

Efforts to make membership attractive to serving members of the Canadian Forces also continue, with contributions to CF sports programs and the RCL Troop Morale Fund, sending Christmas gifts to troops in Kandahar, and involvement in supporting CF members and their families.

Moore, who led the Youth Leaders’ Pilgrimage of Remembrance to France, Belgium and the Netherlands in July, also talked about the importance of pilgrimages of remembrance (Pilgrims In The Shadow Of War, November/December). “You get a whole new perspective on yourself, and why we’re lucky to live in Canada, why we should continue to thank veterans. It’s made me a better individual and a better member of the Legion.”

Brenda Fredrickson of Elrose Branch, who represented Saskatchewan Command on the pilgrimage, gave a presentation about the trip. Pilgrims took part in 15 commemorative ceremonies and saw dozens of cemeteries, memorials and Canadian battle sites. She spoke of the shock of discovering a vandalized book of remembrance in a cemetery in Ypres, Belgium. “That senseless act of one or two uncaring individuals,” she said, “pales beside the deliberate decision of hundreds of thousands of Canadians each Remembrance Day not to take two minutes out of their day to honour Canada’s war dead.”

“We have been built on a sense of purpose that will see us survive well into the future,” Dominion President Wilf Edmond said in his message to delegates. Delegates suited purpose to his words in passing resolutions to go to dominion convention. One calls for advocating a change in legislation to allow Canadian Forces personnel who have served only in Canada access to long-term care compensation. Another requests that recipients of the Legion’s Cadet Medal of Excellence be allowed to wear the medal as adults on their Legion uniforms.

A resolution was defeated calling for Dominion Command to reinstitute dipping of the colours, as the new policy is in keeping with Canadian protocol. Also defeated was a resolution that branches form a cenotaph committee that governing jurisdictions would have to consult before making decisions to modify or change a local cenotaph. “We have always taken care of them, put money forward to update them, but we don’t have ownership,” Pott pointed out.

A total of $12,427 was raised for the Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League and $4,705 will go to the RCL Troop Morale Fund.

The local arrangements committee, co-chaired by branch President Hoppe, provided riveting evening entertainment. Following a beef on a bun supper at the branch Saturday night was a performance of the musical play, We’ll Meet Again, originally written for the branch’s 75th anniversary in 2008. A variety show followed the Sunday banquet, including performances by the Nipawin Veselii Dancers, the Nipawin School of Dance, pianist Daniel Kim and The Golden Fiddlers, who gave delegates a chance to kick up their heels before heading home Monday.


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