By David P. Flannigan, Dominion President
Legion members care deeply about supporting the men and women who serve this country. Indeed, for more than 90 years, Legion members have been making a positive difference in the lives of veterans and their families. Not content with the status quo, the following is a brief overview of some of the recent initiatives the Legion has undertaken to help our veterans and their families as they face new challenges in an ever-changing environment. These initiatives will provide the foundation from which the Legion will embark on another 90 years of excellence of service.
First and perhaps foremost, the Legion has an extraordinary history of comradeship. For those who have served at war or in peace support operations, those who come back and seek friendship, the Legion is a place for veterans and their families that provides comfort and the solace of being able to communicate and, in some cases, be able to survive the next day with certain memories still haunting them. Indeed, with nearly 300,000 members in more than 1,400 branches in Canada, the United States, Mexico and Europe, the Legion remains a leader among veterans-based organizations.
However, it must always be remembered that the Legion is not an end in itself, rather it is a means to an end: “… To serve veterans, which includes currently serving military and RCMP members, and their families, to promote Remembrance and to serve our communities and our country.”
What follows are some initiatives the Legion has adopted as part of its 90-year legacy of service to our veterans and their families, our communities and our country.
Legion OSI Special Section
This past year, The Royal Canadian Legion created the Legion Operational Stress Injury Special Section. The Legion OSI Special Section was established to provide enhanced outreach and support to veterans and their families affected by operational stress injuries. It will also help to focus research and education about Legion OSI. Finally, it will help to de-stigmatize OSI.
Invictus Games 2017
The Royal Canadian Legion announced its commitment to further supporting the recovery of ill and injured veterans by becoming a signature sponsor for the Invictus Games Toronto 2017. In the Canadian military, sport has always played a key role in building confidence, promoting health and esprit de corps.
National Poppy Campaign
The annual Poppy Campaign and Remembrance Day ceremony continues to be our most important calling of the Legion, with a new record of more than 21.5-million poppies distributed in 2016. Clearly, the Legion’s efforts to preserve the memories of service and sacrifice is resonating with an ever-growing number of Canadians. It has been reported that more than $17-million was returned to veterans in need across Canada in 2014. While the need to pay attention to their welfare and that of their families remains, the Legion is committed to helping our veterans through our Service Bureau Network — free of charge.
Support for veterans
The Royal Canadian Legion renewed its contract with Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) allowing trained and security-screened Legion volunteers to visit up to 6,800 Canadian veterans in almost 1,400 facilities on an annual basis. These are veterans that are being supported by VAC in various long-term care facilities across the country.
In 2012, the Legion established a national homeless veterans program called “Leave the Streets Behind,” based on the ground-breaking work of Ontario Command. The program’s mission is to reach out to homeless veterans, or near-homeless veterans, by providing immediate financial assistance and support when and where needed. It also connects them with the appropriate social and community services to establish a long-term solution to meet their needs.
All told, the Legion, spearheaded by its Service Bureau Network, has helped thousands of homeless and near-homeless veterans since the program began.
Support to Deployed CAF Personnel and RCMP Members
Twice a year, the Legion provides gift bags to all deployed Canadian Armed Forces and RCMP personnel — Christmas and Canada Day. It’s a small reminder of home while they are deployed outside the country.
Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League
The Royal Canadian Legion supports 103 Commonwealth veterans and 108 veterans’ widows in the Caribbean region in 16 different countries, support that has been ongoing for decades. These veterans served His Majesty’s armed forces and Auxiliary during the Second World War. We also work with other Allied veterans and/or their families or widows in financial need who live in Canada.
This year the Legion has created the Legion National Foundation to promote the effectiveness, efficiency, and morale of the active and retired members of the Canadian Armed Forces and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and their families.
The Legion is well aware that veterans’ needs may change over the years and that the Legion must continue to adapt and uphold a high standard of leadership as we address issues as they arise.
To that end, the Legion has undertaken to further communicate the great work it does through new marketing initiatives and a continually growing presence on social media.
Experience has shown that veterans of all ages, gender and ethnicity tend to place service before self. The Legion will continue to reach out and make all veterans aware of the real work of the Legion, and ask them to join this highly respected Canadian volunteer service organization, dedicated to serving veterans, including currently serving military and RCMP members, and their families, to providing effective national leadership on Remembrance and to selflessly serve our communities and country for many more years to come.