'If we don’t do something they will close': Many Alberta legion branches facing funding crunch
EDMONTON -- Nearly two dozen Canadian Legion branches in Alberta and the Northwest Territories are at risk of closing, including four in the Edmonton area.
The organization said without help from the federal government, even more branches could also be in danger.
The pandemic has hit the legion hard; with branches closing most have lost all sources of revenue.
“The legion then normally will run bingos or steak fry’s and purely as a way to generate revenue to pay all those expenses or they’ll rent the building out,” said John Mahon, President of Alberta and NWT Command.
Without those revenue streams, the temporary closures could become permanent.
“The sirens are going off that they have so many bills to pay, if we don’t do something they will close,” Mahon said.
Three branches in Alberta and the Northwest Territories are in a dire situation and 16 others, including four in Edmonton, are not far behind.
“That number will undoubtedly grow.”
Mahon said the closures would be devastating for veterans, who use the legion for a place to access support and programming, in addition to its traditional role as a gathering place.
“We just do an amazing job when one of these former soldiers reaches out and says ‘I need help,’ we’re there.”
Mahon said that while the legion does raise about $2 million every year through the annual poppy campaign, the money can’t be used on the branches.
“That money cannot be used for our operations. It can only be used on a veteran.”
The organization has been asking the federal government for financial help for months.
“We need funding, and we need it now not later, because if we get it in October it’s probably going to be too late,” he said.
“Each branch has a charter and when it gives up its charter it’s gone for good.”
With files from CTV News Edmonton's Amanda Anderson.