Legions unclear if funding will help operational needs

Royal Canadian Legion Logo

GORE BAY – The treasurer of the Royal Canadian Legion (RCL) Branch 514 in Gore Bay says a report last week that the federal government is spending millions of dollars to help support Legions across the country, and that it is free of attachments, may not be the case. 

Bill C-4, the federal government’s latest COVID-19 aid package, allocates $20 million for veterans’ organizations that is expected to be distributed prior to the end of the year. While the funding is available to a wide variety of veterans’ groups, one source within the Prime Minister’s Office says a “lion’s share” of that money is expected to flow to the Legions, CTV National News reported on October 5.

“The report is that $20 million is being provided for organizations that help veterans,” said Leigh Major, treasurer of the RCL Branch 514. “But if you read up on it (this funding) is to help with things such as business planning and the money is available if you qualify. There is sure to be some funds coming but we don’t know what it can be used for at this point.” 

Brian Harris, vice president of Ontario Command with the RCL told the Recorder on Tuesday, “the way I understand it the Dominion Command and Provincial Command are looking into all of this. I don’t know at this point how much and where the funds are going to go to. And we probably won’t know for awhile. I don’t know how this will affect local Legions or how quickly this will all be determined.”

“We are pleased and thankful to know that Legion branches are on the verge of receiving some much-needed financial help,” RCL Dominion President Thomas Irvine told CTV News. “While we don’t know how the funds will be administered yet, we understand they can be used for operational costs and that’s what we’ve been waiting for. We are hopeful this will all happen soon, in time to save some branches that are set to close, or to help those that still can’t reopen.” 

Forced closures during the early stages of the pandemic, as well as restrictions around indoor dining, cut off crucial income streams for many Legion branches, including venue rentals and food and drink sales. While some government funding was available at the provincial and federal level, RCL said very little of that previous funding could be used to pay off mounting operational costs including utilities and rental.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is in communication with RCL about the funding, which it says should be made available in the near future. So far it is unclear what the funding will look like and in what form it will be delivered. The Legion hopes the money is provided in the form of non-repayable grants, reported CTV News.