Legions counting on federal funding to survive pandemic
GUELPH -- Royal Canadian Legion officials have been waiting for months to learn if they will get financial help from the federal government.
Many branches across the country have been struggling for years to stay open, and legion officials say the COVID-19 pandemic has been a big blow to their bottom line.
Ottawa announced funding earlier this week, but details are slim. Bill C4 included a $20 million aid package for veterans' groups across the country before the end of the year.
The Royal Canadian Legion's national headquarters received a portion of that, and officials said the funds will be approved for spending on day-to-day bills.
However, it's still not clear how much each branch will receive.
At Branch 275 in Fergus, President Randy Graham said the legion has lost half of its income because it can't host events.
"Weddings, sales groups and activities, it's a big part of our revenue stream," Guelph legion President David Thompson said.
Thompson said the Guelph branch didn't reopen until September.
"We have a fairly senior population so we were concerned about bringing people back too quickly," Thompson said.
Keeping the physical buildings open makes the legions money, but also costs them money.
"We had to put in a number of expense controls in terms of turning the heat down, turning the air conditioning off, we had to cancel some of the services like waste management," Graham said.
Guelph's legion only opens once a week, so bills are smaller.
"As we look forward to the winter, we know it's going to change," Thompson sad.
They'll need to keep heat on so the pipes don't freeze as the weather cools off.
This year's poppy campaign begins on Oct. 30. But, those donations don't support local branches.
"The money goes to support veterans, their families, it provides health care for a number of veterans," said Tom Kirby, Fergus branch poppy chair.
This year, cadets will not be allowed to participate and legion members won't be allowed in commercial businesses. Instead, they will only be able to set up boxes. Many are afraid the Poppy Trust Fund may also take a financial hit.
The public can help the legion by making a donation or purchasing a membership. You don't need to be a forces member, or be related to one, in order to be a member of a legion.