A year-and-a-half long dispute over roughly $300 has led to a rural Nova Scotia legion being stripped of its certification following a bitter clash with provincial leadership in Halifax.
Members of Clare Branch #52 in Saulnierville dug in their heels and didn’t comply with a bylaw requiring the chapter to send a small portion of money raised through its annual poppy campaign to the Nova Scotia/Nunavut Command of the Royal Canadian Legion.
After Clare didn’t pay for the second time, the Royal Canadian Legion withdrew the branch’s charter in November. But that doesn’t seem to bother the branch’s former president.
“They wanted it, they got it, they can keep it,” said Russell Comeau, who also served as Clare’s local service officer.
He said members didn’t feel the command supported or provided any services for their area.
“Nothing, nothing whatsoever. They’d just say send us money,” he said.
The disputed portion of the poppy fund supports the command’s service officers in Halifax, who assist veterans across the province access pension or disability benefits, said Steve Wessel, president of the Nova Scotia/Nunavut Command, which has its headquarters in the Burnside Industrial Park in Dartmouth.
He said all legion branches also have local service officers like Comeau who are volunteers. But questions and issues are frequently sent to staff working in Halifax.
Wessel said if people from the Clare area called, they would also receive help.
“Due to [Veterans Affairs Canada] office closures and the greater amount of veterans that are in our communities these days … our workload had increased tremendously,” he said.
Branch for 79 years
The bylaw relating to the poppy fund was passed at a convention in May 2015. The Clare branch didn’t attend and gave its proxy vote to another branch.
The bylaw means Nova Scotia/Nunavut Command gets 10 per cent of the remaining balance of a branch’s poppy trust fund, after the year’s expenses have been paid out.
Comeau said last year his branch had about $3,000 left in the fund, which means $300 was destined for Halifax.
Wessel said he’s “extremely upset and disappointed” the Clare branch has lost its charter over the issue. “They’re throwing away 79 years of history of this branch over this one little item.”
Money isn’t the issue
In August, branch members voted 32-1 in favour of not sending the money, Comeau said.
The Clare branch is the only one that has refused to comply. Wessel said the amount of money isn’t the issue, but rather the refusal to abide by the rules.
“Through their refusal to support through the poppy fund, they’re basically disregarding the aims and objectives of the Royal Canadian Legion, which is to help veterans,” he said.
But Comeau said his area had little contact with command and he often spends a couple hours a week working directly with veterans.
“I’d visit the veterans when they had problems filling out their forms or they would get phone calls. Some were unilingual French, Acadian or couldn’t understand the forms. I would fill it out for them or make the necessary phone calls,” he said.
He said the need for services should decrease now that Veterans Affairs offices are reopening.
Members of what was the Clare branch are discussing forming a new group, the Clare Veterans Association. Comeau said they plan to meet in a building the legion has been leasing from the municipality.
I find this totally unnecessary but as usual the block headed attitude at Dominion and Provincial Commands continues to run roughshod over the membership. For the sake of a mere $300 they have decided to kick this branch out. How many more legion members does this involve as numbers plummet ? I have said many times the Beginning of the end for the Royal Canadian Legion is not far ahead. Since the organization has devolved into a civilian run operation it has nose dived in veteran membership. Sad state of affairs that can only end in ruin.
God Bless and keep reading