The Canadian Legion was born in the aftermath of WW1, and incorporated as a non-profit, self-sustaining, Veterans’ organization in 1926. In 1960, with the consent of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, it was rebranded as The Royal Canadian Legion. The Legion’s continuing mission is “to serve Veterans and their dependants, to promote Remembrance, and to act in the service of Canada and its communities.”
The Royal Canadian Legion is a unique service organization that emphasizes responsibility and duty over members’ benefits. Any Canadian citizen or Commonwealth subject of federal voting age may apply. Eighty percent of the annual $40 membership dues are remitted to national headquarters, so dues do not keep a branch alive: the people do. Every branch needs active members who share the common goals of supporting Veterans and promoting Remembrance, and who have accepted a duty of community service.
Every Remembrance Day, large crowds turn out to commemorate our Veterans’ sacrifices and, following the cenotaph service, many people join Veterans at their respective Legion homes. Remembrance Day services and related activities may be the only exposure that many have to the Legion.
The purposes of the annual Poppy Campaign in November are to promote Remembrance and to support Veterans and their dependants by both direct and indirect means. Direct support, for example, includes wheelchairs and emergency financial assistance. In Charlottetown, indirect support includes grants to Meals on Wheels; Pat & the Elephant; the Queen Elizabeth Hospital; Camp Gencheff; Navy League & Sea Cadets; as well as needs-based, post-secondary education bursaries (about $7000 annually) to local children & grandchildren of Veterans. It is important to note that all Poppy donations are held in a trust fund, and that disbursements must adhere to strict, nationally approved, governing regulations. In the case of the Charlottetown Legion, disbursements average about $25,000 annually, with the vast majority of funds being allocated for purposes that benefit the whole Island community in some way. No Poppy proceeds are ever spent on the Legion itself.
Although there is a dedicated focus on Remembrance activities each November, the Charlottetown Branch, representing 400 of the total 370,000 Legion members, like all other 1500 Royal Canadian Legion branches (mostly in Canada, but also located in Europe, UK, USA), is active year-round with Remembrance projects, Veterans’ assistance, tribute (memorial) funeral home services, visitations, cadets, charities, community support, social activities, and general fund raising.
Legions face the same challenges as any other organization trying to stay afloat: revenues must exceed expenses. Charlottetown Legion revenues come from bar operations, bingo, and the Chase the Ace lottery. As with other not-for-profit organizations, the Legion also receives occasional government infrastructure funds and partial property tax rebates. Legion expenses include building maintenance, heat, light, payroll, property taxes, etc.
As well as being a great social gathering, bingo continues to be a vital component of Legion revenue. Bingo is held every Sunday and Monday evening at 7PM year-round. The Charlottetown Legion is looking for ways to improve the experience for those who attend bingo.
The survival of the Legion, however, depends on more than just balance sheets and profit & loss statements: it depends on people. The original foundation of the Legion was as a Veterans-only organization. It has evolved, however, and now welcomes into its ranks virtually anyone who subscribes to its mission statement. Even the definition of a Veteran has evolved, and the term now embraces any member of the regular and reserve force who has attained basic occupational qualification and has been honourably released.
The Charlottetown Legion uses its website, www.CharlottetownLegion.ca
, as one of its primary communication tools. It includes numerous photos of past events, and there are many links to issues of interest to Veterans, as well as for other community activities, with a calendar of events maintained one year in advance. The website is not just for Veterans or Legion members – it is for everyone. Those who would like to receive occasional, important announcements may register an email address (which will never be used for any other purpose).
Visit our website frequently, and also drop into the Legion at 99 Pownal Street. Everyone is welcome.