Veterans affairs and commemoration dominated the agenda during the second business day for the 1,075 accredited delegates of the 44th Dominion Convention of the Royal Canadian Legion in Halifax Tuesday.
In his keynote address, Chief of the Defence Staff General Walt Natynczyk said the Legion, Veterans Affairs Canada, and the Canadian Forces partnership is needed in a “combined effort to support veterans and their families. None of the issues is easy. Each member needs support tailored to them and their circumstances.”
Although RCMP have been part of military operations going back to 1885 and despite the members still serving in Afghanistan, “we are still not considered veterans by our government,” said Tim Hoban of the RCMP Veterans Association. His association has joined other veterans’ organizations and the Legion in providing a single voice on issues important to veterans welfare. “If we do not fight for our rights,” he said, “we will surely lose them.”
Delegates heard a stirring presentation from Scott Briand, Nova Scotia/Nunavut’s representative on the 2011 Pilgrimage of Remembrance, who talked about the pride he felt as a Legion member and as a Canadian in touring the cemeteries, battlefields and monuments in France, Belgium and Holland.
Brian Watkins, Canada’s representative on the Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League (RCEL), eloquently expressed why it is not enough for us to reserve our commemoration for official ceremonies like those on Remembrance Day. “We have a duty to remember every day of the year.” He thanked the Legion for its generous support of the Caribbean Commonwealth war veterans through the RCEL, contributions that help spread the organization’s meagre resources to cover veterans in Asia and Africa who are even worse off and ensure they receive one hot meal a day. Dozens of donations and pledges were made from the convention floor, ranging from the change in members’ pockets, to more than $25,000 from a group of branches in Alberta.
Joining President-elect Gordon Moore on the incoming executive are First Vice President Tom Eagles, of New Brunswick, and Vice Presidents Ed Pigeau of Ontario, Peter Piper of Saskatchewan and Dave Flannigan of Newfoundland and Labrador. Elections for treasurer and chairman are yet to come.
Outgoing Dominion President Pat Varga described measures being taken to move the Legion into the future, including a new national training strategy and marketing and communications plan.
Delegates approved a number of resolutions aimed at improving the lot of veterans services. However, a resolution calling for establishment of Remembrance Day as a national holiday was soundly defeated due to concerns it would become just another long weekend whose meaning is forgotten, children would no longer attend in large numbers as part of school delegations and attendance at ceremonies would dwindle as people pursued their regular long-weekend activities.
Up Wednesday: debate of more resolutions pertaining to services to veterans and members of the RCL, as well as installation of new officers.