Ontario Command President Derek Moore meets Viking, the newest puppy recruit in Operation Service Dog
Four groups: Focused on Transition programs, Service dogs, Housing and Remembrance
OTTAWA, ON, January 26, 2023 – With the newest “Operation Service Dog” puppy recruit standing by, The Royal Canadian Legion’s Ontario Command recently announced a substantial new year’s investment of $1,144,741.00 in four organizations. Collectively, their goals align with the Legion’s mission of supporting and remembering Canada’s Veterans and their families.
“Our Provincial Commands are essential to our overall mission of reaching and serving Veterans on the ground when and where they need it most,” says Bruce Julian, Dominion President. “We are proud of the work Ontario Command is doing to meet this challenge in their province.”
The Veterans Transition Network, The Good Shepherd Mission’s Veterans Housing Navigation Team, “Operation Service Dog” – a partnership program with Wounded Warriors Canada, and The Sunnybrook Veterans Cenotaph Project were all presented with funds at a special event last week.
“Their critical work and dedication to help our Veterans is why we’ve made these significant financial donations,” says Derek Moore, Royal Canadian Legion Ontario Command President. “Veterans in our province will benefit from increased well-being, and that’s at the root of what we do.”
Veterans Transition Network
One of the biggest challenges Canada’s Veterans face is transitioning from military life to civilian life. It takes a lot of time and effort to adapt, and that’s what the Veterans Transition Network (VTN) is all about. It helps both Veterans and their families across Canada with group counselling to help them face a range of obstacles from coping with trauma to finding new employment.
“We are incredibly grateful to have the support of the Legion,” says Oliver Thorne, Executive Director, Veterans Transition Network. “These funds are going to go directly into supportive programs in Ontario, which has the largest population of veterans in Canada. We’re helping them to live the absolute best lives they can after service.”
Vietnam Veteran Patrick Thomas, who now works with VTN as the Ontario Program Coordinator, says nothing was helping him tackle his challenges after service, when he first decided to give the program “one shot.” His outcome? “I had almost immediate change in my life,” he says. “It was funny because people around me noticed it more than I did myself and they said, ‘What’s right with you? Things have changed!’ he quips. He later decided to become directly involved.
The Good Shepherd Mission: Veterans Housing Navigation Team
The number of homeless Veterans in the country was recently estimated by Veterans Affairs Canada to be 2,400 however no-one really knows the exact number. One homeless Veteran is one too many, and the Veterans Housing Navigation team at The Good Shepherd Mission has a team of social and support experts who work tirelessly to help Veterans in the Toronto region who are either homeless or at risk.
“We’re providing case management and outreach programs in every shelter and every drop-in centre in Toronto to make sure that Veterans know that our program exists,” says Aklilu Wendaferew, Executive Director, The Good Shepherd. The Mission helps Veterans find housing in the community, including after-housing care like life skills education and social development groups, even exploring things like landlord tenant issues. But funding for that part of the program recently ran out. “This funding you are giving us will help us continue that program,” he says gratefully.
“We’ve reached out, found, and supported over 300 veterans,” says Kirk McMahon, Manager. “It’s a bit emotional because I see the other end of helping Veterans on a day-to-day basis,” says Marla Newman, Veterans Transition Worker.
Wounded Warriors Canada partnership with Ontario Command: “Operation Service Dog”
Well-trained service dogs can be life savers for Veterans facing mental health challenges. In 2018, the Legion’s Ontario Command partnered with Wounded Warriors Canada to help that organization with its work to provide dogs to Veterans with Operational Stress Injuries. While the Legion has been pushing for national standards for Service Dogs for years, nothing official exists to date. In this absence, Wounded Warriors created some guidelines.
“There are standards to which people should be held and trained to, so that our veterans and in our case our first responders as well, receive the assistance that they need by having a properly trained and properly paired service dog,” says Phil Ralph, Director, Health Services, Wounded Warriors Canada.
The new funds provided will allow the organization to pair an increased number of Veterans with trained service dogs, something made possible thanks to donors. “In Ontario, it really wouldn’t be possible without the support of Ontario Command and the branches right across this wonderful province of ours,” he says.
It takes about two years to fully train a service dog to help Veterans, and Viking, the most recent puppy recruit, was present at the event for all to meet.
Laura Mackenzie from K-9 Country Inn, a service provider, shared that it costs close to $40,000 to train each service dog. “I’m so excited about going forward and being able to help more people now.” She explained how creating a “community” with Veterans and their dogs is a big part of the success of the program.
The Sunnybrook Veterans Cenotaph Project
($500,000 donation over 5 years)
Remembrance is one of the Legion’s key pillars, and ensuring peaceful and well-maintained places to Remember our Veterans is paramount. New donated funds will help the Sunnybrook Veterans Centre to refurbish their cenotaph – a place where a Remembrance Day Ceremony is held each November.
“We need this cenotaph, Sunnybrook was Canada’s first military hospital when veterans were returning from World War II,” says Linda Bryson, Philanthropy Director, Sunnybrook Foundation. “This was the only national construction project that was approved during this time because that’s how much we should value veterans.”
An ongoing commitment
Ontario Command’s ongoing commitment to supporting these four groups is underpinned by the positive outcomes reported in the Veteran community. To date, these organizations have helped countless Veterans and families in their transition journeys, assisted hundreds of Veterans living on the streets, paired many Veterans with service dogs, and have helped host thousands of Veterans and supporters during special ceremonies or through moments of quiet reflection.
All projects were funded through Poppy Funds donated in Ontario, except in the case of the Veteran Transition Network, which was funded through Ontario Command Military Service Recognition Book proceeds.
About The Royal Canadian Legion
Founded in 1925, the Legion is Canada’s largest Veteran support and community service organization. We are a non-profit organization with a national reach across Canada as well as branches in the U.S. and Europe. With 250,000 members, many of whom volunteer an extraordinary amount of time to their branches, our strength is in our numbers.
Public Relations / Media Inquiries: PublicRelations@Legion.ca/ 343-540-7604 - Nujma Bond