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Letter: What happens to your poppy money?

To The Editor:

May I draw the attention of you and your readers to a very disturbing news item in the Wednesday June 9 issue of the Vancouver Sun, in the National Post section, page NP 1.  

It refers to an emerging scandal about the treatment of the voluntary secretary of the Lac du Bonnet MB branch of the Royal Canadian Legion.

Jean Beznowski had a reason to be a member of the Legion for 36 years and to continue her duties at the age of 82. Her dad had been in World War II, her husband and two of her brothers fought in the Korean War.

Her sin: she was concerned about how veterans are being treated and about disturbing reports about how the Legion was being operated from its National Command Headquarters.

Specifically, there was concern about veterans seeking treatment for PTSD were being treated.  Apparently the legion had set up an informational (not treatment) program about where treatment could be received.  For this questionable service the Legion charged the veteran $10!  Because she had the temerity to try to contact the organization’s president Tom Eagles, (she never reached him) her branch received instructions to eject her from the branch. 

She is quoted by the National Post as saying, “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 somebody did something about it.”

Apparently there are other members who will bring their concerns to the annual convention in St. John’s.

Concerns about excessive senior executive salaries: more than $100,000 per year.

Concerns about expenses for executive trips for themselves, their spouses and families to the Caribbean and questionable trips to ‘conferences’ in the United Kingdom. 

And why Eagle’s two sons received two of four Legion bursaries when the children of a low income veterans’s family were denied. So far all their queries have been met by executive stonewalling.

Now as I understand it The Royal Canadian Legion is a private club with its own bylaws and able to select its own executives.  If so, how they run it is a question of executive authority as expressed in those by-laws.

But this is an organization that administers millions (how much?).  They are not accountable to anyone but themselves and perhaps whatever legislation they are chartered under. I don’t know. 

But I do know that when people spend their own money to contribute to the Poppy Campaign they do so thinking that the proceeds are going to go to the benefit of bona fide veterans, not for the salaries and travel goodies of the bosses.

And the Legion bloody well IS accountable:- to those who donate in the interests of the families of veterans who lost their lives or who were grievously wounded in their country’s service.  

But it riles me in the extreme that some fat cats are riding on the reputation of those who were wounded, who lost their lives, or came back to little concern for them, whether they are veterans of World War II, Korea, UN actions in Bosnia, Afghanistan or wherever.

Until this mess is cleaned up and there is public accountability for the millions contributed in good spirit it’ll be a frosty Friday before I buy another poppy.

M.A. Rhodes
Nelson, BC