[dropcap]T[/dropcap]This is Part 1 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.
There are 8 Provincial Commands reporting to Dominion Command. The eight are:
Alberta\Northwest Territories Command
Manitoba\Northwest Ontario Command
New Brunswick Command
Nova Scotia\Nunavut Command
Prince Edward Island Command
The Ontario Command of The Royal Canadian Legion is comprised of over four hundred (400) branches throughout Ontario. With a total membership of over 100,000 the Ontario Command of the Legion is the largest service-oriented organization in Ontario.
Although our main focuses continue to be remembering those who gave their lives for freedom, and looking after the needs of veterans, their dependants, and those still serving in the Canadian Forces; Legions throughout Ontario Command are also contributing to the well being of our neighbours by sponsoring community programs. Support for the communities we live in is one of our main beliefs.
Legions sponsor sports, youth programs, senior`s programs, as well as supporting other organizations both financially and by supplying meeting rooms and halls for events. In some communities, the Legion Hall is the main meeting place for community and social events. Branches, zones and districts also raise funds to assist local organizations and regional organizations and facilities such as medical centres, medical research facilities and communities affected by natural disasters.
In the Community
As important as our support of veterans and their dependants is to Legion, Ontario Command and its branch members find the time and energy to make significant contributions to our communities.
Branches support other community-based organizations financially, using funds raised through clubhouse operations, bingos, raffles and break open tickets. Each year, hundreds of thousands of dollars are donated by branches in Ontario to other community and service organizations. As well as financial support, in many communities, the Legion hall is the main meeting place and venue for other community-based organizations. Most branches provide this service free of charge.
As well as support for others, Legion branches operate, or help to organize and operate many community programs. These include public safety programs, programs for seniors, meals on wheels, sport and youth programs.
The leadership of the Legion is elected by the membership through Branch, Provincial and Dominion elections. Legion Branches are autonomous and independently operated. Their policies and activities are defined by their membership in accordance with Legion by-laws, allowing them to meet the needs of local Veterans and support their community. Branches have volunteer Service Officers who can assist Veterans or refer them to Provincial Command for specialized help.
Remembrance and Poppy
Legion Remembrance programs commemorate the men and women who died in the military service of Canada during war and peace. Many believe that maintaining the tradition of Remembrance is a sacred trust and the Legion’s most important role. Ontario Command and its districts, zones and branches commit thousands of volunteer hours each year to carry out Remembrance activities. We are a non-profit organization assuming the responsibility of maintaining the tradition!
The Poppy has been widely recognized as a symbol of Remembrance, since it was first adopted in 1921. By wearing the poppy, we demonstrate our gratitude to those who gave their lives for the freedom we enjoy.
Each year, Legions throughout Ontario carry out our Poppy Campaign from the last Friday in October to Remembrance Day. The campaign raises awareness of the Poppy as a symbol of Remembrance.
The basic purpose of the poppy funds is to provide immediate assistance to ex-servicemen and women in need. This may include food, shelter or medical attention for them or their families.
Funds raised during the Poppy Campaign are also used for the following:
– Comforts for veteran in hospital or hospitalized veterans
– Legion Service Bureau
– Expenses of the Branch Veteran Services Chairman
– Community medical appliances
– Medical research
– Medical training
– Donations for disaster relief for disasters declared by Federal and Provincial Governments
– Educational Bursaries
– Prizes for the annual Remembrance Day Poster and Literary (Poem and Essay) Contests.
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.
After expenses, such as the cost of Poppies, wreaths and other supplies are deducted; all remaining monies are placed in trust to be used on those purposes authorized in the General By-laws of The Royal Canadian Legion. Campaign expenses are generally low, because most of the work is voluntary.
The Legion’s constitution, stresses that Poppy funds must be held in trust. They are held in a bank account separate from that of the branch general funds and cannot be used for any purpose other than those stipulated.
Homeless Veterans Program
The Mission Statement is to ensure that every Veteran who is homeless or near homeless finds the help they need to leave the streets behind.
In November 2009 Mr. Joe Sweeney, a Korean War Veteran who has dedicated much of his time to assisting homeless persons in the City of Toronto, wanted to organize a Remembrance Day Ceremony to honour the homeless Veterans. With assistance from The Royal Canadian Legion, Ontario Command it was held at the Scott Mission in Toronto. At the end of the ceremony it quickly became evident that there were several homeless Veterans within the city and a team made up of personnel from Veterans Affairs Canada and The Royal Canadian Legion, Ontario Command were determined to see what could be done to assist them. This team travelled to Buffalo, New York in January 2010 to review the United States model to end homelessness in Veterans. From this a plan to launch a pilot project in Toronto was formulated.
When news of the program reached the Ontario Command Legion Branches, they were very eager to assist. A Homeless Veterans Assistance Fund was started at the Provincial Headquarters and the Branches responded with generous donations. With funds raised from the Ladies Auxiliary, “comfort bags” were assembled with personal items such as shampoo, shaving cream, shavers, hats, mitts and socks and distributed to Veterans through the Outreach Worker. With assistance from the Homeless Veterans Assistance Fund, we have been able to permanently house Veterans with assistance for their first / last month’s rent, furniture and food vouchers. Rental assistance has also been provided to those facing eviction. Medical assistance has been given to other Veterans such as dental treatments, transportation to stress therapy clinics, eyeglasses and much more.
The Legion was founded in November 1925 in Winnipeg and chartered in July 1926 by special Act of Parliament. However, veteran’s welfare and assistance had been carried on since 1916. During the 1914-1918 war years as wounded veterans returned home, women were asked to help with their recovery by visiting hospitals, sending parcels to the hospitalized and to needy families. These ladies served the veterans and their dependants. Thus, our Ladies’ Auxiliary unofficially became a reality! Ontario Command currently has 243 Auxiliaries with 8,623 members.
The members of the Ladies’ Auxiliary shall be available to assist the Branch in its activities. As the individual Branches are the most important element in the structure of the Royal Canadian Legion, thus the Ladies’ Auxiliary becomes a very integral part of the work of the Legion at all levels.
Becoming an Auxiliary member can be a very rewarding experience. Our Auxiliaries goals are important to us, and so are our members! They ensure that activities are planned for you to enjoy as well. It is recognized that not everyone wants to or can give the same time commitment to the Auxiliary, but we are grateful for whatever time you can spare to assist with the work of this great national organization.
Legion and Auxiliary Major Programs
The Ladies’ Auxiliary has many fund-raising activities throughout the year, and funds raised locally are given to assist the local Legion Branches, health facilities and programs, school activities, and Bursaries. Also, sponsorship of Cadets, Girl Guides, and Brownies, as well as other charitable organizations. In many communities LEGION HOUSING has been built and is being maintained by the local Branches with assistance from the Ladies’ Auxiliary in many cases. The Auxiliaries annually support local and Provincial Youth sports activities. During the year ended on May 31, 2018 we donated back to the community over $319,175.00. In a one-year period, we have donated $134,517.00 to look after our Veterans and have donated to our Branches $1,646,124.00.
Bursary assistance is available for students attending a post secondary institution. The amount of $750.00 is given each year. During the year ending on May 31, 2018, we have donated $102,879.00 to this program.
Membership is open to any female Canadian citizen or Commonwealth subject of federal voting age who supports the purposes and objects of the Legion and undertakes to support the activities of the Legion especially the annual Poppy Campaign. Complete the application provided [Ladies’ Auxiliary Membership Application] and bring it to your nearest Legion Branch.
Ladies’ Auxiliary Sports Activities
The Auxiliaries enjoy friendly competition within our Command such as Cribbage, Darts (Single, Doubles & Teams) & Euchre Tournaments.