The Royal Canadian Legion has been a faithful supporter of Encounters With Canada and The Encounters With Canada Support Foundation since the inception of each of these organizations. Perhaps that support is best expressed in the segments below of a letter sent to The Honourable Beverly J. Oda, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Status of Women by then Royal Canadian Legion Dominion President Jack Frost.
9 August 2006
The Honourable Beverly J. Oda, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Canadian Heritage and Status of Women
Jules Leger Bldg.
25 Eddy St., 12th Floor
Gatineau, QC K1A 0M5
Dear Minister Oda:
On behalf of the 400,000 plus members of The Royal Canadian Legion I wish to thank you for your Department’s commitment to sustain the operations of the Encounters With Canada Program. We consider the Encounters Program to be one of the finest citizenship development initiatives in the country and have supported it for years, both at our local branch level and through donations from our national headquarters. Our first donation of $250,000 was offered to help equip the Terry Fox Center when it first opened. In 2001 we added a gift of $1.86 million to ensure that those young Canadians who were less fortunate to attend the program were given financial assistance to do so. In like manner, our 1500 branches provide additional funding on a continuing basis to assist local students to attend the program.
You will therefore appreciate that The Royal Canadian Legion, like the department of Canadian Heritage, has a vested interest in ensuring the continued viability of the Encounters With Canada Program. It was on that basis that we agreed to a request from Mr. Gary Bennett to enter discussions with officials from your department to consider options for its long term support. From the first announcement of the Federal government’s decision to cease funding of the Canadian Unity Council (CUC), the Legion had expressed concern for the continued operation of the Encounters Program. As a last resort we were even willing to invest more funds if that became necessary. We therefore welcomed the request for support from Mr. Bennett.
On 24 May 2006 we met with Assistant Deputy Minister, Ms. Diane Fulford, and Mr. Brian Gilhuly and Ms. Marie Bedard of your department along with Mr. Bennett and Mr. Michel Desjardins of CUC. During that meeting, when it became apparent that Mr. Bennett’s proposal for the establishment of an independent Encounters With Canada Foundation would not be accepted by Heritage officials, our representative to the meeting, Dominion Secretary Duane Daly, followed up with an alternative option. Acknowledging that a mortgage in the amount of $750,000 remained on the buildings of the Terry Fox Centre, it was proposed that the Legion would take over the mortgage if the CUC would grant the buildings, property and Encounters trademarks to the Legion for $1.00. In other words it was suggested that the CUC would be perceived as acting in the best interest of Canada’s youth if it were to offer the buildings as such to the Legion. In return the Legion would take over the mortgage, establish an arms-length Royal Canadian Legion Encounters With Canada Foundation with its own Board of Directors, and would offer the properties to the Foundation at a fair market rental rate. Of course, this option also necessitated the continued annual grant to the Program from Canadian Heritage and would also have entailed the commitment from Heritage to pick-up all the close-out costs and serverance expenses which were to be shouldered by the CUC with its demise. It was estimated that these one time close-out costs would total approximately $2-2.5 million. There appeared to be a willingness on behalf of CUC to discuss this option but once again Heritage officials deemed it to be unaffordable. The fact that the Legion had already invested over $2 million in the Program did not seem to have any significance. The meeting ended with the intention of Canadian Heritage to find a more suitable sponsor for the program…
As indicated earlier, the Legion wished to become involved financially only as a last resort to sustain the Program. That situation has not changed. But, with the apparent willingness of the government to offer a significant cash infusion into the program, it is proposed that you reconsider the proposal that was rejected earlier when it was stated that no additional funding was available. More specifically, the Legion strongly suggests that you consider the proposal by Mr. Gary Bennett to grant the properties and trademarks to an independent and separate Encounters With Canada Foundation. Along with the Federal commitment of $3.3 million per year, Mr. Bennett has secured sufficient funding to ensure the viability of such a proposal. This would guarantee the independence of the Encounters With Canada Program while ensuring the involvement of a knowledgeable and committed Board of Directors. The Royal Canadian Legion would be very pleased to sit as a member of the Foundation Board and to help guide the future development of the Program.