The issue: Languishing Legions

We say: Canada needs to step up

Last week a federal government spokesperson appeared to leave the door open in terms of branches of the Royal Canadian Legion being eligible for some form of Covid-19 relief.

Before the pandemic the Legion was one of the best or the only places (and probably the most affordable) to grab a beer and socialize in many of the five NWT communities that host a branch.

Like conventional hospitality businesses dependent on a steady revenue stream to keep the boat afloat, branches across the country are staring down a crisis. According to national reports, 157 of Canada’s 1,381 Legion halls are facing closure. One of them is in the NWT, the president of the Alberta command wouldn’t say which one.

Unlike conventional bars and clubs, however, the Legion is an organization that provides a range of support to Canadian veterans, including former RCMP officers, some of whom could now be described as being part of our most vulnerable population, in each community it serves. But unless you’ve accessed these services, odds are you’re not aware of them. The most visible example is probably the Poppy Fund, which as the name entails is supported by sales of pin-on “poppies” in advance of Remembrance Day and donations. That money – more than $16 million from 19.8 million poppies in 2017 – is held in trust by the branch that collected it and used to support veterans and their families.

Their work also includes helping veterans deal with the Veterans Affairs ministry, funding for training and education, accessibility modifications, support for cadet units and more.

No matter which branch in the NWT is most at risk, the numbers show that if one of them does close, at least 10 per cent or possibly more than a third of the 1,107 Legion members North of 60 would be orphaned.

In Yellowknife, where the Legion also adds to the proud military presence of Joint Task Force North, a shuttered branch would leave a noticeable gap and add to the urban blight already well rooted closer to Range Street and the downtown core.

It’s a dark tunnel to stare down for an organization that spends so much time, energy and yes, cash to provide a light to some of those among us who need it most. The response of the ministerial spokesperson that Legions “may” be eligible for the Emergency Community Support Fund above is underwhelming to say the least.

None of the veterans the Legion serves told their nation they “may” report for duty. The plight of the organization may not be the hottest political potato on the national scene, but if the decision-makers in Ottawa can’t see any of the good reasons to pay Legionnaires a little more respect, pandemic or no, they “may” find themselves sitting on the opposite side of the House of Commons sooner than they think.

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  1. My dad was a WWII, RCAF veteran and I’m a veteran from the 70,s. My dad was able to get assistance from veterans land act and later the Legion from the Sherbrooke Québec area. I’m a Zone Youth Ed Chair and sat on the
    branch executive for the last 10+ years
    in the Peterborough, Ontario area. I’m
    fortunate not to need assistance (yet)
    but many are. And many gave their lives for this great country, some volunteered, many didn’t. I believe our federal government has an obligation to assist our legions to continue their support of our hero’s both women and men. Remember…. All gave some, some gave ALL!

  2. To the Author, Wow! Cudos to you and a big THANK YOU for your support and appreciation of our organization! Your comments to the point, I hope our governing bodies ‘get it’!
    Comrade, if you’re a Legion Member, your Branch is proud! If not, please join!
    Immediate Past President – Ontario Command
    ‘Lest We Forget’

  3. Well said Sir and I applaud you stepping up to the plate for us. I am the Dominion Immediate Past President of the RCL and would welcome many more supporters such as you. A big Brovo Zulu to you Sir. “We will Remember them”