90 Years of Advocacy

The Legion was formed in 1926 following the unity of various World War I Veterans’ organizations.

The Royal Canadian Legion is Canada’s largest Veteran support and community service organization. We are a democratic, non-partisan, member based organization with over 300,000 members in more than 1400 Branches across Canada. As the largest Veterans and community support organization in Canada, the Legion advocates on behalf of Veterans, including serving military and RCMP members, and their families, and provides essential supports within communities across Canada.

The Legion was formed in 1926 following the unity of various World War I Veterans’ organizations.

 

Before World War I, the Armed Forces in Canada were represented by regimental associations, scattered units of various types and one Dominion organization called the Army and Navy Veterans Association of Canada. Membership in these groups was limited to former military members and most of these groups only existed in urban areas where the military armories were located.

World War I

By all accounts Canada was ill prepared for a war in the industrial age. Over the course of the war Canada suffered some 61,000 killed, another 172,000 wounded and another 130,000 that were medically discharged as a result of their military service.

Overwhelmed by the sheer volume of ill and injured Veterans, governments needed advice on how best to deal with their issues. At the same time, these same Veterans lacked organization. The result was confusion and, at times, both Veterans and governments found themselves working at cross purposes.

Need for Unity

Seen from this perspective, several Veteran organizations sprang up between 1917 and 1925. They had no unified voice and no unified effort. Unity was the only hope that the Veterans had in order for their needs to be met by successive federal governments. In November 1925, twelve Veteran organizations met in Winnipeg for a “Unity Conference.” From this conference, the Legion was born and by July 1926 it was self-supporting.

Legion Mission

The Legion soon became a persuasive advocate for improved pension legislation and other benefits for Veterans and their families, including: treatment and appeals procedures, returned soldiers’ insurance, and help for those suffering from tuberculosis.

From Service to Country to Service to Community

Beneficial changes were effected but the Depression of the 1930s created a whole set of new problems. As a result, the Legion became involved in both local endeavors and national undertakings to improve the desperate conditions of Veterans in most of Canada.

Soon branches across the country were responding to needs in their communities – an ambulance here, a sports program there, and eventually large-scale provincial and national projects, such as housing for the elderly, and the national track and field program for young Canadians.

A significant development during this period was the introduction of the War Veterans Allowance Act of 1930. This benefitted those who had not been eligible for disability pensions even though they had been incapacitated by war service.

World War II

With the advent of World War II, the Canadian Legion War Services provided amenities such as entertainment, canteens, etc…, for the serving men, both home and abroad, including the battlefronts. Canadian Legion Education Services provided correspondence courses and tutors to prepare the serving men for their return to civilian life.

Veterans Charter

Concurrently with these programs the Legion was involved in a substantial way in promoting the most comprehensive rehabilitation program offered by any government to its men returning from war – the Veterans Charter.

The many Acts that made up this Charter covered practically every aspect of the ex-serviceman’s life – education, medical treatment, employment, land settlement, vocational training as well as the more conventional benefits such as disability pensions (compensation) and the University Training Plan.

Notwithstanding the adoption of the Veterans Charter, the Legion remained at the forefront of seeking improved benefits – particularly with respect to disabilities, death pensions and War Veterans Allowances.

Pension Act

During the 1960s an investigating committee – called the Woods Committee – studied in great depth the Pension Act and the operations of the Pension Commission. The Legion made many comprehensive presentations to the Committee seeking a whole variety of improvements to the legislation. In March 1971, a completely new Pension Act came into being.

Through further advocacy efforts a new basis for upgrading pension rates was introduced in July 1973. This took into account the relationship of war pensions to public service salaries, as well as the previously adopted indexing using the Consumer Price Index.

The New Millennium

As the Legion moved into the 21st century, its members rededicated themselves to ensure the care of Canada’s Veterans and the perpetuation of remembrance. The implementation of the “Two Minute Wave of Silence” in 1999, the establishment of “The Tomb of The Unknown Soldier” in 2000, and its advocacy for the Year of the Veteran in 2005 are examples of how the Legion has been preparing Canadians to never forget the lessons and sacrifices of the past.

New Veterans Charter

Following more advocacy efforts in 2004 -05 which was largely based on the federal government’s intention to deploy troops in a combat role in Afghanistan effective February 2006, a new set of legislative measures covering virtually every aspect of our servicemen and women’s lives were unanimously adopted by all federal parties. Called the Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act, it has since been more commonly referred to as the New Veterans Charter.

Much like the Veterans’ Charter before it, the NVC offers a wide range of programs, services and benefits for Canada’s servicemen and women and their families.

The Legion, along with other Veterans organizations continue to make presentations before the Senate and the various Parliamentary committees seeking improvements to the NVC which everyone at the time of its adoption agreed was a “living Charter”. This led to the NVC being amended by Bill-55 in 2011.

Two of the more recent improvements adopted in the Spring of 2015 deal with financial benefits for Canada’s most seriously injured Veterans after age 65 (Retirement Income Security Benefit) and that all reservists, injured as a result of their military service should be entitled to the same benefits and support comparable to Regular Force members as part of their rehabilitation program.

Outreach and Visitation Initiative

At the Legion’s Dominion Convention in 2000, delegates passed a Resolution asking the federal government institute a transitional care program that will ensure the safety and dignity of the Veteran. Veterans Affairs Canada responded with the Long Term Care Surveyor program which was replaced by the Outreach and Visitation Initiative in 2013. VAC increased their commitment in 2015 for this important initiative which will allow our Legion OVI volunteers to make 8,000 visits to our Veterans in LTC facilities.

Funeral and Burial Service Benefits program

At every biennial Dominion Convention since 2004, the Legion has requested the federal government to make some important improvements to the Veterans’ Funeral and Burial Benefits program which had been drastically cutback in the 1990s. Faced with government inaction, the Legion embarked on a letter-writing campaign in January 2013. Two months later, the federal government buckled and granted an increase in funding and removal of restrictions around their use.

Service Bureau Network

The Legion’s flagship in its advocacy efforts is the Legion’s Service Bureau, a network of more than 1,400 volunteers and professionals working at branches, provincial commands and Dominion Command to secure disability benefits for Veterans.

The Legion and in particular the Legion Service Bureau Network remains concerned with the problems affecting Veterans and their dependents, especially in connection with claims for disability awards, survivor benefits and the ACVA Report recommendations. The Service Bureau is a free service to members and non-members alike.

 

For further information please contact Bruce Poulin at Dominion Command, at (613) 591-3335 ext. 241 or by cell at (613) 292-8760 or bruce.poulin@legion.ca.