- Classifying it as a club, the district has refused to give the Squamish legion a tax exemption.
- Ed Roberston fears the tax exemption denial will make it difficult for legion to support community organisations.
- At least 64 legions across Canada have closed their doors since 2006, according to a report in the National Post.
By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: July 6, 2013
The walls of the legion in Garibaldi Estates are adorned with nostalgic memorabilia, images of military grandeur and solemn souvenirs from times of war and peace.
On a wall emblazoned with memories, Ed Robertson sips a beer and explains a different kind of battle being fought by legions across Canada: The battle for relevancy, and survival. The District of Squamish, at least for now, seems to be on the other side. Classifying it as a club, the district has refused to give the legion a tax exemption.
In doing so, the district has flip-flopped on its policy: Two years ago, the legion was granted a tax exemption, and now it’s been stripped again.
In July last year, the district started whittling down the list of organisations that would be eligible for tax exemptions.
The district shortened the list of organisations eligible for tax exemptions from 21 to eight.
Of the nearly 330,000 legion members, fewer than 90,000 have served in the military. Among the 22,000 new members, just 4,700 have military experience. Source: Veteran Affairs.
It suggested that even if the legion lost the tax exemption, it would be eligible for a community enhancement grant.
But this March, the Squamish Legion found out they won’t be tax exempt because they have been classified as a club.
Legion president Ed Robertson says the council has mischaracterized them as a club.
“We are not a club, we support veterans, and that has been the focus of legions since we first started,” Robertson said.
Through its successful poppy campaign, Bingo, and meat draws, the legion helps out many local organisations, putting $35,000 back into the community, he noted.
“We donate to hilltop, we donate to cadets, to school programs, scouts, whoever is in need,” he said.
Roberston fears the tax exemption denial will make it difficult to donate money to all the community organisations.
“We will have to tighten out belt somewhere,” he said.
Tax exemption is isn’t the only worry for legion members like Roberston.
Legion memberships across Canada are dwindling as Second World War veterans die, and young veterans decide not to join.
At least 64 legions have closed their doors since 2006, according to a report in the National Post.
Membership at the Squamish legion has stayed the same, but its future remains uncertain.
“It’s a different generation these days,” Robertson says.