November 10, 2011
Royal Canadian Legion
Dear Comrade White
Future role of the Legion
When I wrote you last, I didn’t expect that the viability of the Royal Canadian Legion would so soon become a public issue or that the Dominion Secretary would be interviewed by the National Post on the Legion’s supposed “decline and fall”.
I think, in the light of recent events, including the withdrawal of combat troops from Afghanistan and our misguided participation in the sordid regime change in Libya, that the Legion, far from becoming obsolete, could, and should, take a new lease on life as an indispensable public advisor to the Government and the nation on all matters related to the welfare and deployment, past, present and future of Canadian Servicemen.
Traditionally, as you pointed out, the Legion has accepted without reserve decisions taken by politicians, no matter how incompetent or biased (or corrupt, as the case may be). Unfortunately, the era of patriotic, trustworthy politicians is long gone, they having been supplanted by lobby-driven opportunists beholden to secret paymasters whose demands invariably take precedence over the public good (when I complained to my Deputy Minister, the most powerful Ottawa mandarin at the time, that yielding to a particularly costly, foreign-based lobby demand was contrary to the national interest, he replied “in this case the national interest doesn’t apply” – in other words that satisfying the lobby was more important than serving the nation. I told him I disagreed and (as Head of Policy Planning) wrote a Departmental policy paper on the subject in an attempt to prompt discussion. Instead I was summarily fired, the Public Service Employment Act notwithstanding!).
The lesson learned is that organized pressure is essential in dealing effectively with government and that without it one can be ignored. Veterans and descendants of Canadian servicemen can be a powerful influence if properly focused, and the logical focus is the Legion.
To exploit any such new watchdog role, the Legion would need to devote resources to research and analysis (think tanks) and to government relations. The Legion Magazine could then run thought-provoking articles on the origin and exploitation of wars that would both raise its profile and serve to enlighten readers to the facts of history and the present (as opposed to propaganda versions) and to the positive Canadian contribution to the cause of Freedom and Justice. The Magazine could invite contributions from prominent authorities and quote from any number of interesting sources.
I’ll be marching with the Boys of the Old Brigade tomorrow. Maybe see you at the Chateau lunch.