An army of volunteers helped serve veterans, their families and communities across Canada in 2022. Volunteer dedication enabled the Royal Canadian Legion to pull through ongoing pandemic challenges that would otherwise have been insurmountable.
The Legion’s strong membership base is its foundation; its 250,000 members once again allowed the organization to achieve some amazing things. Last year, the organization’s membership also grew year over year for the first time in more than three decades. It welcomed over 35,000 new and reinstated members.
Member engagement, public relations, new project innovation and advocacy efforts underpinned the varied accomplishments at the national level. This collective work helped produce public and media interest, membership growth and ultimately it helped facilitate actions across the country to support veterans.
SERVING VETERANS AND THEIR FAMILIES
Over the course of 2022, Dominion Command service officers helped with disability applications and appeals, and provided individual grants for essential items such as food, fuel, clothing, medication and emergency shelter.
The veterans services department received excellent feedback last year from veterans who finally got disability benefits after years of rejection—primarily after they were alerted to changes in policies at Veterans Affairs Canada. These included items related to additional pain and suffering compensation and additional claims for medications for post-traumatic stress.
Veterans services was also involved in some new initiatives last year, such as the Burns Way Project to help ensure Indigenous veterans receive the mental health care they deserve. And programs supported by the Legion, such as Operation VetBuild, held more group meetings and were another important means of helping support veteran mental health and well-being.
Last year the Legion also continued its international support of veterans and their widows in Caribbean countries, including helping with meals and repairs to a home that provides care and protection. The Legion, as the
contact for Allied veterans and their widows on this continent, also distributed assistance on behalf of benevolent funds and entities such as the Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League.
RESEARCH AND ADVOCACY
As a result of the ongoing disability claims backlog at VAC, the Legion received more calls and complaints from veterans. While it could not hasten the process, the Legion advocated for immediate change with a letter requesting action by the federal government and through participation in media discussions on the topic.
Other advocacy included supporting the creation of a Platinum Jubilee medal to honour citizens who have made a difference and opposing the construction plan for condos on Juno Beach in France. The organization also highlighted the high cost of housing for Canadian Armed Forces personnel in various regions. And it continued to monitor the outcome of former Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbour’s independent review into sexual misconduct and harassment in the military, lending its voice in support of actions to ensure lasting change.
The Legion’s yearly Masters Scholarship was awarded again through the Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research. Martine Southall, a clinical psychology student at the University of Manitoba received the $30,000 grant for her work to better understand treatment outcomes in veterans with PTSD who use medicinal cannabis. The Legion has been advocating for research on this topic for years.
Last year, a $75,000 donation was also made to the Concussion Legacy Foundation for research into head injuries and brain health.
NATIONAL HEADQUARTERS OPERATIONS
The Legion’s visible successes in 2022 reflected the organization’s background operations. Continued modernization of the membership program included the introduction of a digital membership card and access to an even greater number of benefits through the MemberPerks program and Member Benefit Partners, which offer substantive savings at thousands of businesses across the country. Members have saved more than $1 million since the program was launched in 2020.
Thousands of people also purchased products through the Legion’s online store (www.poppystore.ca) or at their local branch—some 35,000 parcels were delivered in 2022. New products included an LED light, commemorative pins (including one to mark the passing of Queen Elizabeth II), and a new tote bag. All purchases help facilitate the organization’s goals.
National marketing and communications efforts, meanwhile, resulted in significant engagement throughout the year, with media requesting the Legion’s input on topical matters, bolstering awareness of both the Legion’s mission and the National Poppy Campaign. Plus, more than one million communications pieces, including direct mail and email, were sent to members, branches and the public.
The Op Harmony committee continued to support the Legion’s renewed focus on equality, diversity and inclusivity by examining new policies and programs to help the organization further strengthen relations with a host of traditionally marginalized groups.
And headquarters also identified a record 1,600-plus poppy trademark violations, the use of the poppy image or selling poppy-branded remembrance products without permission. A national news story helped highlight the issue and some large online retailers pledged to help eliminate such activity.
PROMOTING REMEMBRANCE AND NATIONAL POPPY CAMPAIGN
For the first time in its history, the iconic lapel poppy became biodegradable, as did the organization’s wreaths. The former are now made of paper and cotton velvet, while the latter are composed of several biodegradable materials, including moss and bamboo. The launch of these new items was a huge step in the organization’s move to become more environmentally friendly.
Similarly successful was the “Poppy Stories” initiative that debuted in 2022. People can scan a lapel poppy with a smartphone to connect to the story of a Canadian veteran—a short summary of who they were and where they served. It was a unique new way to connect people with those who have served the country.
The 2022 National Poppy Campaign began when Governor General Mary Simon accepted the first poppy at Rideau Hall in mid-October. The campaign officially got underway on Oct. 28 with traditional poppy boxes available at nearly 30,000 locations across the country, along with 1,000 Pay Tribute “tap to give” boxes that provide touchless donation.
The Legion also had more corporate partners supporting the National Poppy Campaign, particularly through point-of-sale donations in their locations. The Digital Poppy presented by the Legion National Foundation allowed donors to dedicate a poppy online. More than 6,000 people participated in the program, raising almost $200,000.
The sixth edition of the Legion’s Virtual Poppy Drop took place with 117,000 virtual poppies falling on the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill and on the Senate of Canada building. Other landmarks across the country, such as Niagara Falls and the Calgary Tower, were illuminated at various times near Remembrance Day in a collective show of reverence.
The National Remembrance Day Ceremony was held in Ottawa in full splendour, including a grand veterans’ parade and a CF-18 flypast. The 80th anniversary of the Dieppe Raid was acknow-ledged and included a flypast of vintage aircraft. At the base of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a Red Ensign flag believed to have been carried by a Canadian soldier at Dieppe, lay in honour of the sacrifices made. It garnered much attention. The late Queen Elizabeth II’s own military service was poignantly remembered with a special wreath. Canada’s 2022 National Memorial (Silver) Cross Mother, Candy Greff of Alberta, also placed a wreath at the ceremony on behalf of all mothers who have lost a child while serving the Canadian military.
Last year, the Legion made a $100,000 donation to the Canadian War Museum for a project that will share memories and postwar experiences of veterans and their families. And the Legion’s annual National Youth Track and Field Championships returned with the Dieppe Raid as its theme of remembrance. Hundreds of young athletes from across the country competed in Sherbrooke, Que., under a scorching sun.
With 2023 underway, the Legion has already celebrated a significant milestone: it processed the one millionth membership online since it first became possible to sign up virtually in 2017. Meanwhile, a new email tool is in development to help branches share news and keep members informed about activities.
The Legion will continue to support veterans and their families and advocate for changes and programs that will make their lives better. New educational tools are in the works, including a youth-focused website and video contest. And the Legion’s Pilgrimage of Remembrance will be back this summer.
Planning has also already begun for the 2023 Legion National Youth Track and Field Championships and 2023 Dominion member sports championships. Details will be shared soon, too, for the 2024 Dominion Convention in Saint John, N.B. And watch for new Poppy Store products.
The Legion remains thankful for its many members, partners and supporters who together give the organization its strength and facilitate all it does to support veteran well-being.
Know someone with a service-related disability or question? Refer them to 1-877-534-4666. Have an interesting member story to share? Email email@example.com. Want to join us? Visit Legion.ca, firstname.lastname@example.org or call Member Services at 1-855-330-3344.
Nujma Bond is the manager of communications at the Legion’s National Headquarters.