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Local legions grappling with decision to open or stay closed

July 30, 2020   ·   0 Comments


While local businesses are continuing to reopen as much of Ontario moves into Phase 3 of the provincial economic reopening, local legions are juggling with the “difficult decision” to remain closed, or reopen their doors to the public. 

The Shelburne Legion, Branch 220, announced last Friday (July 24) that they would not be opening to the public despite the region moving forward in Phase 3 and the indoor capacity increasing.

“After having numerous discussion, we’ve decided that because of the protocol and the capacity ruling that it wouldn’t be financially feasible for us to start at the moment,” said Lesa Peat, President of the Shelburne Legion. “We would like to keep our veterans and our groups safe.”  

Forced to close their doors back in March, during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Royal Canadian Legions across the country are currently facing uncertain futures due to financial burdens –many of which will never reopen their doors. 

Peat says that she has kept a COVID-19 file through the pandemic that shows what the Shelburne Legion has lost financially, comparing it to last year’s numbers. Much of the lost revenue has come from the cancellation of events like Bingo, and the canteen, but a big part of the revenue loss has come from the lack of hall rentals. 

“We were pretty much booked solid for the month of March, April and May for the halls,” said Peat adding that the Shelburne Legion hasn’t lost a “crazy” amount of money, with lottery funds allowed to be used toward utility bills.

“If we didn’t have that, we probably wouldn’t be in operation in less than a year,” Peat admitted.

Although COVID-19 has brought up concerns of closures to legions due to finances, the uncertainty has  affected the veterans that visit and rely on the legions.

“When you do talk to these older gentlemen and ladies, what they’re saying is that they miss the communication, they miss the camaraderie, they miss their friends,” said Peat. 

The Shelburne Legion is looking to reopen sometime around Sept. 1, but a meeting in August will determine if they go through with it. 

While the Shelburne Legion decided to remain closed, the Orangeville Legion officially opened their doors to the public on July 20.  

In early 2020, the Orangeville Legion had to take on debt to deal with a repair to a portion of the roof. In February the Legion experienced a flood and a fire, then March came around with the coronavirus pandemic and they were forced to close. 

“We barely got ourselves open for about a week with only temporary use, and then we had to shut down for COVID,” said President Barry Kimber. 

Despite being open for a week, Kimber says that the numbers are considerably slower than what they had expected with the doors reopening.

Restrictions in Phase 3 have stopped activities such as Bingo and Euchre, that generate revenue for the legion, from commencing due to the risk of transmission. A GoFundMe page has been set up in the hopes of raising $10,000 to go towards outstanding bills for the Orangeville branch. 

Kimber, in an interview with the Free Press on Monday, said they were going to give it another week before assessing whether to reduce the days they are open or close the branch again.

“We’re eating money up rather than generating money right at the moment,” said Kimber. 

Legions across Canada have filed insurance claims for loss of income due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of which have been denied. A class action lawsuit with 625 RCL branches as plaintiffs has been filed against the insurance company Aviva Canada, seeking a payout of $20 million. 



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