Below is an open letter from the Dominion Membership & Outreach Committee Chairmen to all Legion members and Branch executives, underscoring the need for CHANGE within our Branches… change to make every Legion Branch a welcoming, inclusive, vibrant cornerstone of the community.
A Message from your Dominion Membership & Outreach Committee Chairmen –
Tom Irvine and David Flannigan
Now that convention is over it’s time to get back to work on Membership. Convention has spoken and we on the new Membership & Outreach Committee at Dominion Command were listening.
Convention has stated that our members want more openness from Dominion Command and things need to be more transparent in what Committees are reporting. As we all know, it’s time to address some serious issues in membership. We have many fantastic branches that are growing their membership with new Veterans, their families and members of the public. These same branches have very high retention rates, and are welcoming places for any members visiting from out of town. Yet there are still other branches that believe they are private clubs and outsiders are not welcome, be they Veterans, Legionnaires or members of the public. Comrades, we serve all Veterans, regardless of when or where they served, and we are also Canada’s largest community support organization. Let’s make sure this message rings out from every corner of every branch, from coast to coast to coast.
Let’s start by looking at welcoming our own members…
When we joined the Legion as members of a Branch, we were all told that our membership cards would allow us access to any Legion branch in the country; and this is exactly how it should be. But Comrades, it has come to our attention that some branches are turning members away because they are not members of that specific Branch. If a Legion member can prove their membership, we must welcome them and share our hospitality with them. After all, we are all Comrades of the same great organization working for the same purposes and objectives. Our reputation as a caring, welcoming place for one and all is deeply affected when we won’t even let our own members into our own Legion branches. We must always strive to welcome any member whenever we can.
The Royal Canadian Legion is like a family. We all have joined to ultimately help our Veterans, engage in our communities and ensure that all Canadians will honour Remembrance. While we may differ amongst ourselves occasionally, we then turn around and work together, celebrate together and mourn together. Being in the Legion is a way of life for many of us, and we as an organization have had a difficult time with change, but change we must.
A Veteran is any person who is serving or has honorably served in the Canadian Armed Forces, the Commonwealth or its wartime allies, or as a Regular Member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, or as a Peace Officer in a Special Duty Area or on a Special Duty Operation, or who has served in the Merchant Navy or Ferry Command during wartime…
We must change our attitude towards currently serving members of the Canadian Armed Forces or RCMP who walk in our doors for a quick visit or lunch, whether in uniform or not. Again, many stories abound of Legion branches that have turned away CAF & RCMP personnel simply because they were not members of that branch. Many of our Ordinary members of today were once the young men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces looking for comradeship at a Legion branch. There are no valid reasons to refuse any currently serving member of the CAF or the RCMP into any branch of the Legion, regardless of whether they are a member or not. The Legion was founded by Veterans for Veterans. The men and women of the CAF and RCMP will form the backbone of a revitalized Legion and we need them now more than ever. It is our hope that your branch will do everything it can to seek these potential new members out and get them into your branch as soon as possible!
A group of Navy personnel drop in for lunch…
One story told to us came from a Navy Lieutenant-Commander who went into a branch for lunch with three of his shipmates and was asked by the bartender on duty to show their membership cards. The sailors said they were in town on training and were not members at the branch so the bartender informed them they could only stay if they got signed in by a member and that as he was the only member in the branch, he could not sign them all in. They left, and have told us they will not go back to a Legion branch until they can be convinced this attitude will change.
We must change the way we are treating our younger Veterans, and by younger we mean Veterans other than those from the Second World War and Korea. We have all heard the stories through the years, the First World War Veterans treated the Second World War Vets roughly because they didn’t fight in a “real war.” Then the Vets from WWII did the same to the Korean Veterans and now this same story is being said to our modern day Veterans. The Legion has always been there for any Veteran and now Comrades we have a whole new generation of Veterans out there and we are behind the proverbial eight ball when it comes to how we are dealing with them at the branch level.
Blue jeans not welcome at this branch…
Another story is about a younger member, (this member is 48 years of age), who went into a branch in the town he was visiting and was told he wasn’t welcome because he was wearing blue jeans. So shocked was the member by this situation that he simply turned on his heels and walked out the door.
Again, we must state that these accounts are happening in some branches, not in all branches.
If we turn them away, they will go elsewhere…
Already, there are groups that have formed for Veterans of Bosnia, Yugoslavia, for Peackeepers and NATO Veterans and now a new association is being created to welcome Afghan Veterans. Remember, we are the Legion and we serve all Veterans. If we are doing our work properly, these Veterans will know the Legion is there for them.
Comrades we must start to change our attitude if we are to survive. The world is changing and we must adapt or we face a very bleak future. This should be an exciting time for The Royal Canadian Legion with a wealth of new Veterans of all ages out there to take care of as we all have pledged. A wealth of potential new members with years of experience in leadership, management, organizational abilities and other key skillsets are out there. Welcome new membership into the fold with open arms and bring new life to the Legion family. The Legion needs to be more welcoming to all Veterans and their families, the RCMP and their families, as well as members of the public.
We need your ideas too, so don’t hesitate to share them. If we each take action in this regard, together we will grow our Legion and maintain its prominence as Canada’s largest Veterans and community support organization. We are looking forward to working with you and thank you for your membership in the Legion. It all starts with you!
7David P. Flannigan Tom Irvine
Co-Chair Membership & Outreach Committee Co-Chair Membership & Outreach Committee
As Legion Branches are autonomous and independently operated, change must be brought about through the membership, as per the Legion’s by-laws. Dominion Command will do all we can, within the scope of our authority, to support Branches in upholding the values and ideals of the Legion. But ultimately, the success of a Branch will be up to that Branch. As a Legion member, YOU can effect change at your Branch and help your Branch truly reflect the values of this great organization. Get involved in your local Branch, bring forward motions for change, vote on important issues and Branch elections, take on leadership roles, and help shape the Legion in your community and across the country. If you have questions or concerns, we encourage you to bring them to your Branch Executive and to your Provincial Command8. We can’t help if we don’t know your concern.
The Dominion Membership and Outreach Committee also want to hear from you! Share your ideas on how to make this a better organization. Let us know what your Branch is doing to welcome Veterans and the Canadian public into your Branch. Tell us how we can help your Branch succeed. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your comments and feedback.
You are the future of this great organization. Through your dedication and commitment to Veterans and community support, and by setting an example for all a Branch can be, you will help the Legion grow and thrive.