The Legion pushed forward earlier this month, advancing support for Canada’s Veterans and continuing to advocate for the care and benefits they deserve. Nearly 1100 Legion Delegates and observers from across Canada, the United States, Mexico and Europe gathered for the 46th Dominion Convention in St. John’s Newfoundland, June 11-15, 2016. This Convention held special significance, as it commemorated both the 90th Anniversary of the Legion and the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel – both important milestones in the history of our Veterans and our country.
Pre-Convention activities got underway on Saturday, June 11 as Delegates registered and picked up their Convention kits. At the St. John’s Convention Centre, Delegates took time to browse the Exhibit Hall where close to 30 Veteran, community and service organizations shared information. In the afternoon, Delegates had the opportunity to attend three educational workshops presented by Dominion Command. As membership is always a hot topic for the Legion, the workshops focussed on areas of member engagement, recruitment and retention, and new membership technologies to support membership growth.
Dominion Convention officially kicked off on Sunday, June 12 with a massive parade down the streets of St. John’s, proudly marching our colours. A commemorative wreath laying ceremony at the Newfoundland National War Memorial paid tribute to Canada’s Fallen Veterans and honoured the men and women for whom we serve. During the opening ceremonies, Delegates enjoyed a variety of performances and music that recounted the history of the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel.
Newly installed Dominion President and Senior Elected Officers
As part of Dominion Convention proceedings, a newly elected Dominion President and Senior Elected Officers were installed to take the reins of The Royal Canadian Legion for the next two years.
Congratulations went out to Newfoundland and Labrador native, Dave Flannigan on becoming the 42nd Dominion President of The Royal Canadian Legion! In his acceptance speech, Comrade Flannigan called on all Legion members to work collectively for the betterment of those we serve, and to strive to strengthen the organization as we progress into the future. As he leads the organization forward, Comrade Flannigan committed to maintaining the climate of fiscal restraint within the Legion. He spoke passionately about the Legion’s duty to serve and support Veterans of all generations and their families, and pledged to hold the Canadian Government accountable for the promises made to improve care and benefits for all who served for this great country.
On Tuesday morning, Dominion Treasurer Mark Barham presented the much anticipated accounting of the Dominion Command Budget. As fiscal responsibility and transparency are a priority for the Legion, Comrade Barham provided a complete and detailed report of Dominion Command spending for the General Fund. As happens every year, the Command Budget underwent a full and thorough audit through Price Waterhouse Coopers. Comrade Barham walked Delegates through the Dominion Command Statement of Revenue and Expenses report, section by section. He provided detailed information on the entire report, including accounting for salaries, travel expenses, program costs and operational costs, and addressed questions from Delegates throughout the presentation. We were pleased to announce that, after operating from a deficit position in recent years, by 2015 Dominion Command had cut expenses by 1 million dollars, turned a corner and are now operating at a surplus.
Delegates voted to reappoint Price Waterhouse Coopers as the Dominion Command auditor for 2016-2017. At the end of the presentation, the report was approved and Comrade Barham received a standing ovation for his thorough accounting and explanation of the Budget! In an unprecedented show of support, Delegates stood up to thank Comrade Barham for his clarity and for ensuring Delegates had a complete and full understanding of the budget and Command spending.
The Statement of Revenue and Expenses can be found in the 2016 Committee Reports and Resolutions, pages 63-78.
Per Capita Tax
As part of the Legion’s fiscal responsibility, a resolution was brought forward to increase the member per capita tax, in increments of $1.25 for 2017 and an additional $1.25 in 2018. Dominion Treasurer Mark Barham presented the current and projected financial environment for the next six years and presented the options of fixing the revenue stream, or cutting programs and services. It was clear that cutting programs would be detrimental to the organization, and would be a short term fix. A minimal increase in per capita tax will compensate for both a declining membership and inflationary costs, and ensure Dominion Command can continue to offer programs and services that support the organization. For less than a cup of coffee per year, we can ensure the Legion continues to honour and serve Veterans and our communities.
After discussion, Delegates overwhelmingly voted to approve the per capita increase, which will commence in 2017.
Ensuring care for all Veterans
During business proceedings, Delegates charted the Legion’s way ahead, passing resolutions that advance our support for Veterans, Remembrance and Communities. Three resolutions of significant note to Veterans were passed.
Canada’s Sacred Obligation
The Canadian Government’s approach to Veterans policy demonstrates a disregard for our country’s social covenant with those who serve in Canada’s Military. A resolution was passed that reaffirms the Legion’s commitment to ensuring the Canadian Government upholds the principals of this long-standing covenant in its defence and Veterans policies. The Government must live up to our country’s sacred obligation to care for Veterans and their families throughout their lives by allowing them to maintain a quality of life that is worthy of the sacrifices they have made for Canada.
Through this resolution the Legion will continue to hold the Canadian Government accountable to their promises. We do this by advocating to Government for the care and benefits of all Veterans and their families; presenting to the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs and the Senate Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs; hosting the Veterans Consultation Assembly; bilateral meetings with the Veterans Affairs Canada Executive; and the Dominion President’s quarterly meetings with the Minister of Veterans Affairs and with the Canadian Armed Forces Chief of Military Personnel.
Operational Stress Injury Special Section
A historic motion was passed for the establishment of a Legion Operational Stress Injury Special Section. With a focus on mental health, this is a significant move forward for the Legion in support of Canada’s Veterans and their families. The Operational Stress Injury (OSI) Special Section is a national, member-driven, Veteran-led, grass-roots initiative that will bring focus to Veterans and families affected by OSI, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other mental health issues. Through this Section, the Legion will build on our outreach and support activities and enhance our advocacy efforts.
The OSI Special Section will function in concert with the Operational Stress Injury Social Support (OSISS) Program offered through the Department of National Defence and Veterans Affairs Canada, to extend their reach through the Legion’s footprint of 1400 Branches across the country. The Section does not provide health services. In its role, the OSI Special Section will:
- Reach out and assist Veterans and their families affected by OSI through peer-to-peer support;
- Promote public awareness and work to de-stigmatize the public perception of Veterans with OSI;
- Bring focus to those affected by OSIs through assistance, referrals, information and awareness;
- Promote research into treatment and prevention.
The establishment of the OSI Special Section will strengthen the Legion’s ability to respond to the needs of the Veteran community. Serving and retired Veterans and their families do not have to be a member of the Legion to receive assistance from the Legion or the OSI Special Section, and there is no charge to access support.
In addition, this member-driven initiative will engage the efforts of our Veteran Legion members, especially those with OSIs, and provide them with an opportunity to get involved and become part of the solution. Legion members who are Veterans can join the Section and volunteer to help the Section meet its mandate. Through the Legion’s advocacy efforts, OSI Special Section members will be reinforcing the Service Officer network with Veterans helping Veterans and their families get the care, benefits and support they need and deserve.
There are current criteria set by numerous levels of government that limit access to Veterans’ contract beds and Veteran long term care facilities to Veterans of the Second World War and Korea. As well, Veteran Units and Wings that hold Second World War and Korea Veterans are slated to close as Veterans of those eras pass on. As beds lay empty and post-Korea Veterans plead for access to those facilities, the Legion has long been pressing the Governments of the day to increase access for all Veterans. At the 46th Dominion Convention, Delegates passed a series of resolutions to further advocate for Government to expand the criteria for contract beds, long term care facilities, and Veteran Units and Wings to include ALL Veterans of the Canadian Armed Forces or Allied Forces, of any era, based on health needs.
The need for those beds and facilities is growing, and the Legion demands that access to those beds be open to all Veterans. We will push forward to meet with senior government officials to advocate for change; we will bring this forward at government committee consultation meetings; and we will continue our communication efforts and advocacy campaigns until this resolution is met.
Veterans served to protect the rights and freedoms we enjoy today, and The Royal Canadian Legion is committed to ensuring all Veterans receive the care and supports they deserve.
Learning from others
Throughout the three days of Convention, Delegates had the opportunity to listen to a number of keynote speeches and presentations that highlighted work being done by a variety of organizations and individuals on behalf of Veterans and their families. These presentations provided multiple perspectives, information on challenges and opportunities, and shared support for Canada’s Veterans and the Legion.
These included presentations from:
- The Governor General of Canada
- The Lt Governor and Premier of Newfoundland and the City of St. John’s
- The Minister of Veterans Affairs
- The National Silver Cross Mother
- Three ‘modern day’ Veterans
- CBC’s Rick Mercer
- The Veterans’ Ombudsman
- The American Legion
- The Royal British Legion
- Valour Canada
- The Chief of the Defence Staff
- The Deputy Commander, 5th Canadian Division
- The Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League
- Invictus Games Toronto 2017
- The Cadet Leagues
- Canadian Medical Association
The Legion marches ahead
Throughout Dominion Convention, Delegates had opportunities to talk about the issues and challenges facing Veterans and the Legion, provide input and recommendations, collaborate on ideas, and vote on resolutions that will guide the organization forward. As the Legion marches ahead, we are working to evolve into an organization that is more open, consultative, and focused on our core mission. Together, through our membership, we are making a difference for Veterans and their families.