Le­gion caught off guard by pol­icy

Li­brary board to re-ex­am­ine rule that bars poppy trays in branches

Truro Daily News - - FRONT PAGE - BY HARRY SUL­LI­VAN

At first, Alan Fa­hey couldn’t be­lieve his ears.

Never in his 40 years as a mem­ber of the Royal Cana­dian Le­gion had he been re­fused per­mis­sion to dis­play a poppy tray.

And now, twice on the same day.

“I know I had a blank look on my face,” said the im­me­di­ate past pres­i­dent of the Tatamagouche le­gion branch.

The first re­fusal came at the Nova Sco­tia Liquor Com­mis­sion (NSLC). Shortly af­ter, it was the same story at the Tatamagouche branch of the Colch­ester East Hants Li­brary.

Fa­hey said it was the re­fusal at the pub­licly funded li­brary that shocked him most.

“I think it was a to­tal dis­grace, it be­ing a com­mu­nity build­ing,” he said. “She told me right up front that they were not al­lowed to dis­play the poppy trays.”

Fa­hey ex­pressed his con­cerns about the li­brary’s stand to lo­cal Colch­ester County Coun­cil­lor Mike Gre­gory. He, in turn, raised the is­sue dur­ing coun­cil’s re­cent ses­sion. A mo­tion was passed to of­fi­cially com­mu­ni­cate those con­cerns to the li­brary board.

Coun. Karen Macken­zie, who sits as mu­nic­i­pal rep­re­sen­ta­tive on the li­brary board, said the pol­icy to refuse poppy trays does not align with her be­liefs.

“That was kind of hate­ful, wasn’t it,” she told the Truro News. “There wouldn’t be a pub­lic li­brary there, if it wasn’t for those vet­er­ans.”

Li­brary CEO Tif­fany Bartlett said the de­ci­sion to not per­mit poppy trays in the fa­cil­i­ties was made by the board dur­ing a meet­ing in Septem­ber as part of a more wide-rang­ing ban on so­lic­i­ta­tion prac­tices. The ban was im­ple­mented Nov. 5.

“We had been ap­proached by mul­ti­ple or­ga­ni­za­tions to as­sist with fundrais­ing ef­forts, and it be­came ap­par­ent that we needed guide­lines that could be ap­plied con­sis­tently to all com­mu­nity re­quests,” Bartlett said. “The new sell­ing and so­lic­it­ing pol­icy states that ‘li­brary staff and vol­un­teers shall not so­licit or ac­cept mon­e­tary dona­tions on be­half of any or­ga­ni­za­tion other than Colch­ester-east Hants Pub­lic Li­brary and the Colch­ester-east Hants Pub­lic Li­brary Foun­da­tion’. This re­stric­tion in­cludes do­na­tion boxes for money and other fundrais­ing ac­tiv­i­ties for char­i­ta­ble pur­poses,” she said.

Bartlett stressed it was never the board’s in­ten­tion to make the le­gion feel un­sup­ported and it does re­gret that re­sult.

“We do want to make sure that we are con­sis­tent and fair across all or­ga­ni­za­tions. But we will be reach­ing out to the le­gion to ex­plore ways in which we can part­ner with them in the fu­ture,” she said. “So, I think there are other ways that we can def­i­nitely sup­port them and that’s an im­por­tant com­mu­nity re­la­tion­ship that we want to main­tain.”

That in­cludes dis­tribut­ing in­for­ma­tion on be­half of the le­gion and other com­mu­nity groups, in­clud­ing pro­mo­tional pam­phlets and posters, and by pro­vid­ing free meet­ing space to non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tions, as well as part­ner­ing to fa­cil­i­tate pub­lic pro­gram­ming and in­for­ma­tion ses­sions.

But given the con­cern that’s been raised, Bartlett said, the board will be dis­cussing the is­sue at its next meet­ing on Tues­day.

Macken­zie said she in­tends to clearly state her po­si­tion on the mat­ter dur­ing that meet­ing.

“If the vet­er­ans want to put a poppy tray in the li­brary, they will put it in the li­brary,” she said. “My view is, cer­tainly, what the vet­er­ans want, the vet­er­ans get. Be­cause with­out them, we’re not even here.”

Fa­hey said he also talked to Colch­ester North MLA Karen Casey about the NSLC’S re­fusal to ac­cept the poppy trays.

He said she got back to him later the same day to say that af­ter speak­ing with NSLC of­fi­cials, its pol­icy to not ac­cept un­manned poppy trays was be­ing re­versed.

Casey said while the NSLC has no dif­fi­culty with hav­ing vet­er­ans set­ting up poppy stands within its stores, it had im­ple­mented a pol­icy to not per­mit un­manned trays be­cause of pre­vi­ous thefts that had oc­curred.

“The real is­sue was trays with money in them that were unat­tended,” she said. “Usu­ally there is a le­gion mem­ber or vol­un­teer there.”

But the NSLC agreed to re­lax its pol­icy for this year, she said, with the aim of try­ing to find an­other so­lu­tion go­ing for­ward.

“I think there will be a good solid look at how they can do that in fu­ture.”

One pro­posal, Casey said, would be to have lock boxes at NSLC coun­ters that would pre­vent the theft of poppy dona­tions. But she said there was never any in­tent on the part of the NSLC to dis­cour­age le­gion mem­bers from us­ing their sites for poppy dis­tri­bu­tion.

“We want to make sure that we con­tinue the tra­di­tion but per­haps do it in a more con­trolled way, with re­spect to open money,” she said.

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