A number of Royal Canadian Legion branches in British Columbia are facing an uncertain future because of COVID-19.
According to the Royal Canadian Legion’s B.C./Yukon Command, the financial impact that COVID-19 has had on branches is so bad and the situation has become so dire that as many as 41 per cent of branches in B.C. might never reopen or fail within three months of reopening.
At least 26 per cent of branches will need to be monitored closely while on 20 per cent will or have seen a minor negative impact.
“All of the legions are in similar situations. Without the people coming in, without the ability to do that they’re going to need help to get back on their feet,” said Rick Nickerson, deputy zone commander for mid-Vancouver Island.
Some braches like one in Bowser recently re-opened but only for two days a week.
All big community events and private parties like weddings still aren’t allowed by the province and those are big sources of income for legions in B.C., where many of the branches are staffed by volunteers.
“They’re operating at a very small margin anyway and then that has gone away so some of them have had taxes deferred,” said Nickerson, adding. “But that’s only the taxes, they still have to pay heat and lights and insurance and all of the other things.”
Legion members say the situation is sad.
“It’s a bit of sadness but having said that every organization and every business has to be relevant to its community and that’s the struggle,” said Dick Stubbs who has been a member at different Legions on the island for many years.
“It’s sad because we do so much for veterans and the community relies on us I’m sure for a lot especially the rural areas like here in Bowser where it is the hub of their social life,” added Bowser legion secretary, Wendy Anderson.
The legion’s B.C./Yukon Command has written letters to the federal and provincial governments seeking financial help, but say they have not received a response.