Provincial Commands – Part 2
This is the second part of a two-part article containing selections from the Provincial Command web site. A full description can be found on www.on.legion.ca. The following is a synopsis of areas the Provincial Command has the responsibility to maintain and direct. All this drills down through the District and Zone Commanders to the Branches.
Branches and Ladies Auxiliaries Charitable Foundation
The Ontario Command Branches and Ladies’ Auxiliaries Charitable Foundation, a registered charity, is a partnership of the branches of the Royal Canadian Legion and their Auxiliaries in Ontario Command.
The foundation funds are used for the following:
- Operation of the Ontario Command Service Bureau
- Veterans welfare
- Programs for Aging Veterans
- Medical Research
- Medical Equipment
- Other purposes of a charitable or benevolent nature, as approved from time to time by the Board of Directors
The Foundation was registered with the Federal Government under the “The Canadian Corporation Act” and also registered under “The Income Tax Act”. This allows the “Charitable Foundation” to accept donations and issue receipts for income tax purposes.
Since its inception in 1979, 2259 applications have been given approval. This amounts to over $15,837,600.00 in donations to various Hospitals, Health Clinics and Homes for the Ages and Charities in communities throughout Ontario. (Note: figures are current to 2016).
Bursaries for students throughout the Province of Ontario are also a major part of the Charitable Foundation. Each year hundreds of applications are received from students and with a budget of $400,000.00 annually
Ontario Command Bursary Program
This program is designed to assist those students who enter a post secondary school of education (including courses and programs of a technical and vocational nature) and pursue the same course throughout their academic years (maximum of five years).
Those who are eligible to receive a bursary are as follows:
– Ex-Service personnel or currently serving members of The Canadian Forces (Regular, Reserve and Merchant Navy) and their children and grandchildren; Commonwealth War Veterans and their children and grandchildren
– Ordinary and Life members of The Royal Canadian Legion and their children and grandchildren (Current living members)
– Associate members of The Royal Canadian Legion and their children only
– Ladies’ Auxiliary members and their children and grandchildren.
– Step Children and Step Grandchildren may be considered where applicable.
Students can apply up to 5 years, provided they are taking the same course of study. A photocopy of the Veteran’s discharge certificate or record of service must be attached to the application. Service documents can be obtained from Library & Archives Canada in Ottawa. Send a copy only. Proof of relationship is required.
Application forms for the Bursary are available at all Legion Branches, post-secondary schools, online from the command website or by contacting Ontario Command. Zones and Districts have a Bursary Chairman who can assist the student with the application. The Command Bursary Secretary is also available for assistance. As it is the responsibility of each student to complete the application correctly, it behooves him/her to get the required help. All applications may be submitted starting each September; however, the deadline for applications is the last Friday of March for the current academic year ending April 30th. Applications must be sent to Ontario Command. Early submissions are strongly encouraged to catch any errors or omissions.
The Ontario Command Bursary Program is one of the most generous bursary programs in Ontario (if not in Canada). While the Ontario Command Bursary awards are not large, many students find that they go along way towards buying the books and materials needed for their respective courses. During the 2016-2017 academic year a total of 465 awards were made for an amount of $232,500 in the Province of Ontario.
The Ontario Command Bursary Program is funded by donations from Branches and Ladies’ Auxiliaries and shows the Royal Canadian Legion’s continuing commitment to the youth of Ontario
The Royal Canadian Legion is unique in that it is a Canada wide non-profit Veteran’s organization founded by Veterans for Veterans. Legion Branches are member oriented with a membership who believe in and promote the perpetuation of “Remembrance” and the welfare of our Veterans.
In 1926, the “Legion” in Canada was born out of a group of 15 Veterans organizations formed after WW1 to promote the welfare of its Veterans. The largest of this group was the “Great War Veterans Association” and the oldest was the “Army and Navy Veterans Association”.
Thirteen of these organizations, including the “Great War Veterans Association” joined together to form the “Canadian Legion of the British Empire Service League”. In 1961, the “Act to Incorporate” was amended to change the name of the Canadian Legion to “The Royal Canadian Legion”. The word “Royal” was conferred by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth in recognition of the Legion’s 35 years of dedicated service.
Initially, the Legion was an organization composed entirely of Veterans. These members were ex-service men and women who came from all walks of life possessing the leadership skills and training learned as sailors, soldiers and airmen. As “Comrades-in-Arms” who shared a common background, they were part of a brotherhood who worked together over the years to improve pension benefits and living conditions for our Veterans and their families.
At present, there are 403 Legion Branches in Ontario, 988 Branches in the rest of Canada, 14 Branches in the USA, 5 Branches in Europe and 1 Branch in Mexico, for a grand total of 1411 Branches. In 2017 Legion Membership stands strong at nearly 300,000.
[highlight]Today, there is no requirement to have a family link to a Veteran to become a member of the Royal Canadian Legion. Voting membership in the Legion is now open to any Canadian citizen of Federal voting age who supports the purposes and objects of the Royal Canadian Legion. Non-voting membership is also available to any non-Canadian citizen who is of Federal voting age.[/highlight]
Youth Education Program
The Royal Canadian Legion sponsors youth programs that include sports, cadet corps, scouts, leadership training and remembrance activities. It is our aim to help youth learn an appreciation for teamwork, leadership, duty and most importantly, Remembrance. A key focus for the Legion Canada-wide is our Youth Education Program.
Educating our youth about the high cost of their freedom is one of the Legions most important roles in Canada today. We must impress upon young people who have never known war, that freedom was won at the cost of many lives; young lives like their own. These competitions are open to all school aged students in Canada. The main principle of the contest is to encourage students to remember, think and participate, prior to and during the annual Remembrance Day observations.
Our annual poster, literary and essay contests, help focus the attention of the participants on those who gave all for the freedom we enjoy. Contests are divided into the following categories – senior (Grades 10, 11 and 12), intermediate (Grades 7, 8 and 9), junior (Grades 4, 5, & 6) and primary (Grades 1, 2 & 3). The entry may be in the form of an essay, poem or poster. Participants in the primary category may submit entries in the poster contests only.
Initial judging takes place at the community level by volunteers at local Legion Branches and the winning entries progress to judging at Zone, District and the Provincial levels. The winning entries at Provincial level are forwarded to Ottawa where they are judged against all winning submissions across Canada and the National winners declared. The names and work of all the National winners are published through our Legion youth program flyers and the website.
The Poster Contest has two divisions – Colour and Black & White. The first-place National winning entries for the four categories (school grades) are displayed at the Canadian War Museum from 1 July – 1 May of the following year. The second-place winners and any receiving an Honourable Mention are displayed at Parliament Hill during the Remembrance week.
The Legion also sponsors a trip to Ottawa for the Senior Winners in the four contests (two poster, essay and poetry) to attend the National Remembrance Day Service where they place a wreath on behalf of the youth of Canada. They also have an opportunity to meet and visit with the Governor General. Students may enter as many contests as they wish.
Public Speaking is the other category in our Youth Education program. Speakers may select their own topics. The program is meant to give young people an opportunity to speak in public. Speeches are to be the original work of the speaker. Like the poster and literary competition, contestants begin at branch level and winners move forward through to the Provincial competition. Public Speaking is Ontario Provincial Command wide which culminates in May at the Provincial competition. In all categories of competition, winners receive a certificate as well as a financial award for competing.
The Royal Canadian Legion also encourages our students to participate in the Remembrance video contest. This competition began in November 2013 and is now a yearly competition that is open to all Grade 4 – 8 and Grade 9 – 12 students in Ontario. Students may enter both the individual or group competitions but may submit only one entry per contest. Monetary cash prizes are provided to First place, Second place and Third place winners. The deadline for sending entries is December 1 of the current year and students may start sending in their entries starting in September. Submission must be sent directly to firstname.lastname@example.org
Canada’s youth are our most important asset. The Royal Canadian Legion recognizes youth as a priority, only to be preceded by service to Veterans and the perpetuation of Remembrance.
YOUTH TRACK and FIELD PROGRAM
The Track and Field Program of Ontario Command is unique in that it is the only program of its kind in the province that offers a summer meet to boys and girls 17 years of age and under (Youth and Midget). Athletes can compete at two other levels (Zone and District) and those that qualify at these levels can progress to the Provincial level. Those who qualify at the Provincial level can advance to the National level.
The Royal Canadian Legion Track and Field Program has existed for many years, with up to 400 athletes competing in the summer meet annually. Many of them can participate in the program for up to five years. We are proud that many have gone on to become very prominent in the field of sports. Wayne Gretzky, though best known as a hockey legend, also participated in our Track and Field Program and won a medal at the Provincial level. All the Canadian medal winners at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles advanced up through the Legion program. The Track and Field Program continues to produce many Olympic athletes including members of the 2016 Rio Olympic Team and more for the future.
The meets would not be feasible without the help of the 100 plus volunteers it takes to run them, and Ontario Command sponsors hundreds of young athletes across the province at an average annual cost of $99,371. The athletes do not pay to participate, and all costs are paid by the Legion, including transportation, accommodations and meals. In some cases, branches also donate to include some spending money.
We are very proud of our program. While it primarily assists young athletes to be the best they can be, it also allows them to develop confidence, maturity, and new friends as they participate through the age categories