Letter to the editor - Royal Canadian Legion fed up with misrepresentation by media

 

OTTAWA, July 29, 2016 /CNW/ -

Dear Editor:

Between the dates of 25 February 2016 and 27 July 2016, Postmedia published nine articles about The Royal Canadian Legion and Dominion Command which have inaccurate, misleading, or incomplete information. Dominion Command is committed to good governance, transparency and accountability and we are dismayed that inaccurate information continues to circulate about the Legion and Dominion Command.

In article after article, we see pervasive false information. Claims that we are charging a fee for ill and injured Veterans to receive care through the Legion's new OSI Special Section – false! Claims accusing us of suspending a Legion member who was concerned about the treatment of Veterans – incomplete and misleading! Claims insinuating Dominion Command lacks financial transparency and accountability – false! There are simply too many inaccuracies and false information to list and correct in one Letter to the Editor, so we posted a full disclosure article on our website and encourage all Canadians to check it out and get the facts.

Dominion Command has sent emails, requested interviews, and even participated in interviews with media to correct the information, yet these inaccuracies continue to be published. These articles unfairly discredit the Legion and the good work we do in support of Veterans and their families.

As a democratic member-based organization with nearly 300,000 member volunteers in over 1400 branches across the country we recognize we are not perfect. Where we see challenges we work to improve them. From reviewing and ensuring accountability and transparency, to strengthening member and public communications, to reaching out to the younger generation of Veterans and listening to their needs, to working with Provincial Commands and Branches to ensure all Veterans have access to Legion programs and support, to creating a welcoming atmosphere at all Branches, and more… we are moving this organization forward.

 

 

To Postmedia we say... get the facts, stop the insinuations and false accusations and check your ethics. We will no longer stand quiet while Postmedia writes this drivel and other media outlets blindly republish it, tarnishing the good name of The Royal Canadian Legion.

Get the facts!

Dave Flannigan
Dominion President
The Royal Canadian Legion

 

 

Royal Canadian Legion fed up with misrepresentation by media

Between the dates of 25 February 2016 and 27 July 2016, Postmedia published nine articles about The Royal Canadian Legion and Dominion Command which have inaccurate, misleading, or incomplete information. Information published in the media in recent months does not accurately reflect the organization, and we are here to set the facts straight.

Recent articles published by Postmedia about The Royal Canadian Legion

Dominion Command is committed to good governance, transparency and accountability and we are dismayed that inaccurate information continues to circulate about the Legion and Dominion Command. We wrote a Letter to the Editor on July 29, 2016, sharing our dismay. There were simply too many inaccuracies and false information to list and correct in one Letter to the Editor, so we posted this full disclosure article on our website and encouraged all Canadians to check it out and get the facts.

LEGION OSI SPECIAL SECTION

Misinformation published on June 7, June 11 and July 27, 2016

FALSE: The Legion is charging $10 for Veterans affected by PTSD and their families for support through the Legion's OSI Special Section

FACT: There is NO fee for any Veteran (including currently serving and retired military, RCMP members, or Law Enforcement Officers who have served in special duty areas) or their families to access care and support through the Legion's OSI Special Section, or for any Service Bureau program. All Legion programs and services for Veterans and their families in need are free of charge, and you do not need to be a Legion member to access those services.

FACT: The Legion's Operational Stress Injury Special Section, as defined under the Legion's By-Laws, operates similar to how a Legion Branch operates in that it is autonomous, independently operated, manages its membership, and generates and manages its own finances. The Section was ratified on June 12, 2016 at the Legion's Dominion Convention and is only now in the process of discussing the logistics of the Section, including funding sources for their operation. As part of those discussions, a membership fee has been proposed for Legion members that wish to join the Section and become a member of the OSI Special Section (similar to joining and supporting a Legion Branch). This fee is just like any other Branch or Section membership fee, and helps support the operation of the Section.

Misinformation published on June 11 and July 27, 2016

FALSE: The Legion OSI Special Section is in conflict with Government's OSSIS program, using their name, duplicating services, and developing the Section without informing the Government.

FACT: The Legion does not use the acronym OSSIS for the Legion OSI Special Section. The term OSI is the most comprehensive and recognized term for the challenges that encompass operational stress injuries, and is therefore used in the name. The Legion uses the term "Special Section" in the name to meet By-Law requirements. For this reason, the Section was named Legion OSI Special Section. It was agreed that at no time would the section be referred to as OSSIS. The name Legion OSI Special Section is used for legal documents. For other uses, the shortened English name for the Legion OSI Special Section is 'Legion OSI'.

FACT: Legion OSI is a member-based, Veteran-driven, grassroots initiative. Section members will outreach within their communities, refer Veterans and families affected by OSIs to the Legion Service Bureau, and add their voice to the Legion`s advocacy efforts.

Misinformation published on June 11, 2016

FALSE: The Legion OSI Special Section and Dominion Command have declined to inform the government about the Special Section or to speak about the Legion OSI Special Section.

FACT: The Legion informed the Chief of Defence Staff about the Legion OSI Special Section in April 2016 at a Dominion Executive Council meeting. Although the article indicates the Legion has not responded to requests from the military and DND about the Legion's OSI Special Section, Dominion Command has not been contacted by DND or the Government with any questions or requests for information about the Section.

FACT: The Legion OSI Interim President, Glynne Hines was asked to comment on the Section a day before it was to be ratified at Convention. Hines declined to comment at that time, however agreed to an interview after ratification. David Pugliese of Postmedia interviewed Glynne Hines on June 15, 2016, where Hines clarified the misconceptions of the Section, including the $10 fee, yet incorrect information continues to be published.

FACT: David Pugliese of Postmedia requested an interview from Legion OSI Interim Vice President, Craig Hoodon July 26, a day before another scathing article was written about the Legion. Hood accepted the interview, however Mr. Pugliese did not respond with questions prior to the release of the article which would have clarified issues and mitigated confusion resulting from the article.

FACT: David Pugliese claims Dominion Command indicated on our Facebook page that recent Postmedia articles are wrong but that we then removed it from our page. We stand by that comment and have not removed the comment from our page. You can find it here: Facebook comment

FINANCIAL TRANSPARENCY

Misinformation published on February 25, June 7, June 11 and July 27, 2016

FALSE: Recent articles have insinuated that Dominion Command lacks financial transparency, executives are overpaid, travel expenses are out of control, and the organization is not financially accountable to its membership.

FACT: Dominion Command is fully transparent and accountable and with full legal compliance of all financial reporting, with member approval of all budgets and financial reports. Dominion Command Budgets are approved through the Dominion Executive Council, which has representation from every Provincial Command. The annual budget (including salary and travel) and independently audited financial reports are ratified by the delegates at the Dominion Convention. Dominion Command publishes our budgets and financial reports on our website. Financial Reports can be found at http://www.legion.ca/resources/ under Convention Publications. Every one of our more than 1400 Legion Branches is also provided with a hard copy of this report via the Committee Reports and Resolutions book.

FACT: A resolution asking for the disclosure of executive salaries was denied as the resolution would infringe on Canadian privacy laws. Dominion Command is mindful that growing public expectations of transparency may require us to update our practices over time.  As we consider how best to do this, we must remember that the goals of greater transparency and accountability must be considered in the context of applicable privacy laws.  As we are not a federally or publicly funded organization there is no statute that requires disclosure of salaries. Therefore public disclosure of individual salaries would have to be done in a manner that fully complies with applicable privacy laws.  Salaries cannot simply be unilaterally "released".

Dominion Command determines salaries for staff through a Pay Committee that includes the Dominion President, the Dominion Treasurer, and Senior Elected Officers. Historically, salaries are regularly reviewed in comparison to industry standards in the Ottawa area. Department salary budgets are approved through the Dominion Executive Council, which has representation from every Provincial Command, and are included in the annual budget which is ratified by the membership. Salaries by department are also published in the annual financial report.

It is important to note that the Dominion President and all Senior Elected Officers are volunteer, unpaid positions.

FACT: Travel costs are forecasted each year as part of the process to develop and approve our annual budgets. These budgets are vetted by each Committee Chairman and Senior Elected Officer of the Legion and receive final approval by our governing Council, the Dominion Executive Council, which has representation from every Provincial Command. Biennially, we present our audited statements and budget projections for the coming years to Legion delegates at the Dominion Convention for approval and ratification. Every travel opportunity is scrutinized to ensure that it is meeting the purpose of the visit and is within the scope of the Legion. At the national level, travel for spouses and family is not covered by the Legion. Spouses are welcome to accompany our executive when they travel, however, it is at their own expense. All funding for travel is taken out of the Legion's General Account - Poppy Funds are not used for this.

USE OF POPPY FUNDS

Misinformation published on April 27, 2016

FALSE: Quotes in a recent article implied misuse of Poppy Funds that are in support of the 2017 Invictus Games in Toronto.

FACT: The Legion is proud to support the 2017 Invictus Games in Toronto as it furthers our mandate to raise awareness for the issues facing Canada's Veterans, it supports ill and injured Veterans attending the games, and it helps dispel the stigma associated with being ill or injured.

Funds were used appropriately and in accordance with our By-Laws and the use of Poppy Funds to support the 2017 Invictus Games was unanimously supported by all Provincial Presidents representing each of the Provincial Commands. In the Legion Poppy Manual (403.ii.l) it indicates that a Command or, subject to the prior approval of the Provincial Command, a district, zone, branch or group of branches may make an allotment not exceeding 25% of the current balance for the purpose of funding transition programs related to the training, education and support needs of Veterans.

The Invictus Games is a registered institution that supports transition for ill and injured Veterans. Not only will it specifically support about 100 Canadian Veterans getting help through their participation in the 2017 Games, but it also inspires countless injured and ill Veterans across this country to move forward, and raises awareness for the challenges ill and injured Veterans face.

COMRADE JOAN BEZNOSKI

Misinformation published on June 7, June 15 and June 27, 2016

FALSE: The Royal Canadian Legion suspended a long-time Legion member for calling Dominion Command to raise concerns about the mistreatment of Veterans.

FACT: The situation in the Lac du Bonnet Branch has been going on for close to two years. This situation is an internal branch matter and falls under the provisions and processes of our General By-Laws. Dominion Command under those very By-Laws does not have the authority or jurisdiction to intervene in this matter. For this reason, the complaints brought forward by Ms. Beznoski were referred back to the Branch.

We regret Dominion Command is not authorized to release specific information on the complaints brought forward by Ms. Beznoski. Ms. Beznoski may share those if she wishes. We can share that the complaints brought forward by Ms. Beznoski were about member and patron conduct issues, the complaint process and individual misinterpretation of the By-Laws. Dominion Command does not have jurisdiction over those types of issues. Issues that involve complaints against another member or a patron in a Branch must follow the Legion complaint process as outlined in the By-Laws. Dominion Command contacted Ms. Beznoski four times to explain why we were not able to intervene in the Branch Issues and to provide her with information on how to proceed with her complaints.

We are very disappointed that the recent articles have made it appear that The Royal Canadian Legion would suspend a member for bringing forward concerns around Veterans care. Dominion Command will, without question, respond to any issue related to the care and benefit of Veterans and we work to support Provincial Commands and Branches to resolve issues on Veterans care.

SERVICE BUREAU OFFICERS

Misinformation published on May 3 and May 30, 2016

FALSE: Recent articles imply there is current unauthorized access occurring to Veterans` confidential files by the Legion.

FACT: The Legion Service Bureau and all Command Service Officers are in full compliance with the Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) processes and procedures. The Legion provides assistance to Veterans including still-serving and retired RCMP members and their families to navigate the complicated disability claim application process through VAC. In order to do this important work, VAC has a Memorandum of Understanding with the Legion to approve the release of Veteran information provided the Legion affirms that it will be used solely for the purposes of representing Veterans. In addition, signed authorization to access an individual's file must be provided as a precursor for Legion assistance. Several years ago, the Legion identified unauthorized access to the VAC Client Service Delivery Network (CSDN) and corrective actions were immediately taken. There have been no founded complaints since then.

Regarding the article's mention of an investigation into unauthorized access that is currently underway by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner (OPC), while the Legion has not been contacted by the OPC, VAC did contact us and we have provided all required information and are confident that our Command Service Officers have acted in accordance with the Privacy Act and have identified no privacy breech by the Legion.

Command Service Officers are security cleared through VAC for access to the CSDN, they have the signed authority to represent and access is monitored and controlled by VAC. The privacy and confidentiality of our Veterans and their families are of utmost importance to Legion Command Service Officers and in accordance with the Privacy Act. In any given year, the Legion helps an average of 3,200 Veterans with their disability claims.

About the Legion

The Royal Canadian Legion is a not-for profit, democratic member-based organization whose mission is to serve Veterans, including serving military and RCMP members and their families, to promote Remembrance, and to serve our communities and our country.

As part of our mandate, the Legion Service Bureau provides supports, programs and representation for 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. These services are provided free of charge, and they do not have to be a member of the Legion.

 

SOURCE The Royal Canadian Legion Dominion Command

Image with caption: "LOGO: Royal Canadian Legion (CNW Group/The Royal Canadian Legion Dominion Command)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20160729_C4397_PHOTO_EN_744565.jpg



For further information: Questions or Media Inquiries: Bruce Poulin, Dominion Command, by cell at (613) 292-8760 or bruce.poulin@legion.ca

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