Royal Canadian Legion

The Royal Canadian Legion originated in several small associations of ex-soldiers that banded together throughout Canada during WWI. The first national organization, the Great War Veterans Association, was established Apr 1917 and by 1919 was the largest such group in Canada. By the mid-1920s, internal problems, a decline in membership and the emergence of rival associations brought the movement near collapse. In 1925 Field Marshal Earl Haig, founder of the British Empire Service League, visited Canada and encouraged all Canadian veterans to unite in one organization.

In 1926 the GWVA and other groups amalgamated to form the Canadian Legion of the BESL. The new Legion grew steadily during the 1930s and expanded rapidly during and immediately after WWII. It concentrated on the re-establishment of veterans, advising them on pensions and other benefits available from the federal government. In 1960 the organization was renamed the Royal Canadian Legion.

The Legion continues to serve veterans by bringing their concerns to the attention of the government. The association's primary aim since 1915 has been service to the veteran and his dependants, although it now engages in many public and community service activities, helping to remind Canadians of those who have served their country in war. Each province is organized as a command, and currently the Legion, with headquarters in Ottawa, has 1500 branches in Canada with over 360 000 members.

See also WAR VETERANS.