Victory Legion reopening bittersweet as Ontario legions face uncertain future
LONDON, ONT. -- Tuesday marked reopening day for the Victory Legion branch in London, and while the Legion executive delayed the opening by one week after emerging from the province-wide lockdown, the move was not without trepidation.
“The unknown is always the hard part that we've got to deal with,” said Victory Legion President Al Miller.
Like restaurants, the Legion must cap its capacity at 10 people. Miller said it’s not enough to take in any real revenue.
The reopening, rather, is about showing support for the community “...and for the veterans that do not have access to the internet or are not computer savvy. They want to put a face to somebody to talk to. They’re probably going through mild depression. They want somebody to talk to in person. They’re old school people like myself.”
The Victory Branch reopening comes as the Legion’s Ontario Command faces the grim reality that its numbers are dwindling.
“Branches have struggled and in some cases they’ve amalgamated with other branches,” said Ontario Command Vice President Brian Harris.
According Harris, at least 25 of the province’s 395 legions likely won’t survive.
“We’ve looked at the numbers for the province of Ontario, and depending on how much longer this goes on, rest assured there are going to be branches that are not going to recover from this. And maybe not during the pandemic but immediately after they’re going to find that they’re just not sustainable.”
Harris said when Legions are forced to close it impacts the many programs in place for veterans and their families, such as homelessness programs and disability supports.
“If branches close, that outreach for veterans isn’t going to be there for our communities.”