Numerous groups for veterans in Canada were formed after World War I in 1918, but were for the most part, unsuccessful. It was only in November 1925 when the Canadian Legion as we know it today was founded. It is a self-sustained, non-profit organization which has many branches all over the country. Their purpose is to not only provide a place for veterans to reminisce about their past and discuss their war time experiences but also to support them and provide aid in various ways. For instance, such aid includes medical assistance, such as providing wheelchairs, canes, walkers to those who needed them, as well as carpooling and financial help. Also, the Legion was an ideal place for veterans to discuss and sympathize with others who lived through the same experiences as they did. Legion halls soon became a very important part of their respective communities also because of the social events often held within their walls. To join the Legion, one must either be a veteran or relative, any service personnel (fire, police, coast guard, etc.), an associate or affiliate member. However, while the purpose of the Legion was to be there for their veterans, the members also gave back to the community in countless ways. Supporting various sports and youth organizations such as the cadets are only one prime example.

Legions are also places where the members come together and participate in activities and events. These many events are organized and planned by the Legion members from both the Branch and the Ladies Auxiliary and include dances, bazaars and dinners among other activities. Veterans and other members of the Legion sit to sell poppies in many public locations in the weeks leading up to Armistice Day. The money received by selling these poppies is given over to the Annual Poppy Campaign who uses it to help veterans and their families in need. Legion halls all over the country take the time to honour our veterans past and present for their courage and devotion, by holding a two-minute silence as well as other commemorative activities such as marching and the playing of bagpipes in their honour and memory.

Most significantly, the Legion gives veterans a voice in society and a place to show them that what they did and continue to do was and still is important for their country and shows the importance of remembrance.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

History of The Royal Canadian Legion

In Canada, several veterans organizations emerged during WWI. The Great War Veterans Association, founded in 1917, was the first national organization for veterans, and by 1919 it was the largest veterans organization in Canada. Following WWI, 15 different organizations existed to aid returning veterans in Canada. Field Marshal Earl Haig, founder of the British Empire Service League (now known as the Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League), visited Canada in 1925 and urged the organizations to merge. In the same year, the Dominion Veterans Alliance was created to unite these organizations. In November of 1925, the Canadian Legion was founded in Winnipeg, Manitoba, as The Canadian Legion of the British Empire Services League. The Canadian Legion of the British Empire Services League was incorporated by a special act of parliament the following year. The Legion grew steadily through the 1930s and then expanded rapidly following WWII. In 1960, Queen Elizabeth II granted the Legion royal patronage and it became the Royal Canadian Legion.

Membership in The Royal Canadian Legion

Membership in the Royal Canadian Legion was originally restricted to ex-service members of Canada's Armed Forces and Merchant Navy. The organization is now open to members of the general public. There are four categories of membership.

Ordinary Membership

Ordinary membership is open to anyone who has served or is serving in one of the following:

  • The Canadian Forces or Her Majesty's Forces (including regular force or reserve force under class "C" service).

  • Forces or underground forces of any of Her Majesty's allies in any war, conflict or police action in which Canada was involved.

  • The Merchant Navy or non-military services in an actual theatre of war in which Canada was involved.

  • Her Majesty's reserve forces including Cadet Instructors on the Cadet Cadre for not less than one year.

  • The Royal Canadian Mounted Police or The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary for not less than one year.

  • The Forces of a country while that country was a member of NATO or NORAD in alliance with Canada.

  • The Forces of the United States.

  • The Vietnam War with the Armed Forces of the United States, Australia, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea or South Vietnam, and were a Canadian citizen or Commonwealth subject at the time of service.

  • The Canadian Coast Guard as an officer or crew member who has two or more years active service on the high seas or inland waterways.

  • A city, municipal or provincial police force as a police officer for not less than one year.

Associate Voting Membership

Individuals who do not qualify for ordinary membership can be associate members if one of the following applies:

  • They are the child, stepchild, adopted child, grandchild, sibling, niece/nephew, widow/er, parent or spouse of someone who is or was eligible for Ordinary membership.

  • They are the child of an Associate member.

  • They have served in The Royal Canadian Sea, Army or Air Cadets for not less than 3 years.

  • They have served as a cadet civilian instructor for not less than 3 years.

  • They have served as an officer in the Navy League of Canada for not less than 2 years.

  • They have served in the Polish Armed Forces after WW II below the rank of officer.

  • They have served in a City, Municipal, Volunteer, Un-organized Territories or Federal Fire Service for not less than one year.

  • They are the spouse, parent or sibling of an associate member who qualified subject to the above criteria.

Affiliate Voting Membership

Commonwealth subjects who do not qualify for ordinary or associate membership are eligible for affiliate membership.

Affiliate Non-Voting Membership

Non-Commonwealth subjects from an Allied nation who support the aims and objects of the Royal Canadian Legion can apply for Affiliate Non-Voting membership.