I had a blog ready for today, but after reading this article I knew I had to share it. Wow!! it sure qualifies what I have been saying for years, in fact makes my protests seem a wee bit weak by comparison to what Joan encountered. Its time legion veterans took the legion back.
Joan Beznoski is your typical member of the Royal Canadian Legion.
Her two brothers and her husband fought in the Korean War. Her dad fought in the Second World War.
The 82-year-old has been at the same legion branch for 36 years in Lac du Bonnet, Man., just north of Winnipeg.
She had served as secretary of the branch and has devoted countless hours to volunteer work there.
But now she has been suspended from the legion.
To phone the main legion office in Ottawa to try to talk to dominion president Tom Eagles to voice her dissatisfaction about how the country’s largest veterans’ organization is treating former soldiers.
She never did get to talk to Eagles. But the suspension came swiftly after she tried.
“The legion is losing members because of how people are being treated and how the (legion) is operating,” Beznoski explained in an interview. “It’s time someone did something about it.”
She is not alone in that thinking.
As some 1,500 delegates gather in St. John’s this weekend for the legion’s convention, concerns are being raised about questionable practices in the organization, its Dominion Command headquarters in Ottawa, and financial accountability for the millions of dollars it receives from the public from the sale of poppies.
Some legion members had hoped to use the convention to force Dominion Command, the legion’s administrative organization, to reveal details about executives paid more than $100,000 a year. Those members also want to find out about the cost of travel and expenses for executives, and their spouses and families.
That effort has been shot down. Legion executives say the privacy of executives would be violated by such disclosure.
Veterans have also questioned why Eagles, accompanied by his wife, flew to the Caribbean in the winter of 2015 to present a cheque to a Commonwealth veterans’ organization. Others have asked for details about how much it cost to send Eagles and the dominion secretary Brad White, reportedly with their spouses, to a number of conferences recently in the United Kingdom.
Another veteran from a low-income family has questioned why Eagles’ two sons received two of four legion bursaries offered at one branch, when her children were denied.
Legion spokesman Bruce Poulin acknowledged the questions.
“These are all questions regarding internal operations of the Legion,” he noted in an email. “As per the Legion’s General By-Laws, the avenue for members to raise queries or effect change is through the Legion’s chain of command and the resolution process.”
But that doesn’t appear like it is going to happen in some cases.
Lorne Tyson, a member from Winnipeg who has been advocating for Dominion Command to reveal salaries and travel expenses of executives, has been informed the matter cannot be discussed or even raised in St. John’s.
“Instead of transparency, we have more secrecy, and instead of accountability, we are told that there will be no accountability,” Tyson wrote earlier this year to Jack Frost, chairman of the legion’s Dominion Command.
In a previous interview, Steven Clark, director of administration for Dominion Command, insisted expenses are strictly controlled.
They’ve kicked out a long-time member for what — trying to phone the president to talk about mistreatment of veterans. What does that tell you about the legion?
Other veterans have raised concerns about the value of some of the services the legion provides.
The organization has created a new Operation Stress Injury Special Section for those with PTSD and related injuries. The special section does not actually provide health care, but will direct veterans to already available services. The legion is charging a $10 administrative fee for those who want the service. The legion declined to explain why veterans suffering from PTSD are required to pay the fee .
In addition, Craig Hood, whose nomination as interim first vice president for the section is expected to be approved at the convention, has denounced on the National Post website a veteran’s advocate who suffers from PTSD, as well as another injured veteran. He labelled them “as morons.”
Hood’s Facebook page also includes a posting from another individual about those same veterans, who have criticized legion practices, labelling them as “f…tards and losers.”
Hood did not comment. Dominion Command acknowledged it is aware of Hood’s comments about fellow veterans but declined to denounce them.
Supporters of the legion say the organization, with 300,000 members, still does good work. But its membership is dwindling and many of its current members are no longer veterans.
Allan McArthur, a veteran who is trying to help the suspended Beznoski, said she was right to try to raise concerns about the problems within her branch.
Beznoski was suspended after White, the dominion secretary, wrote to legion executives in Manitoba.
In a letter obtained by the Ottawa Citizen, White pointed out Beznoski wanted Dominion Command to conduct an investigation into ongoing problems in the Lac du Bonnet branch, including allegations of bullying and disrespectful behaviour against veterans.
White, however, noted he had no intention of looking into those allegations.
An official with the legion in Lac du Bonnet said Beznoski’s suspension was being dealt with and no further information would be released.
But McArthur said the treatment of the 82-year-old is symptomatic of larger problems. Those issues range from ignoring veterans’ issues to questions about how money raised from the sale of poppies is spent, he noted.
“They’ve kicked out a long-time member for what — trying to phone the president to talk about mistreatment of veterans,” McArthur said. “What does that tell you about the legion?”
God Bless and keep reading