As a journalist, soldier and veteran I have been tracking the Legion for several decades. Here are some of the things I've discovered:
The Legion has about 240,000 members, and has been losing about 10,000 members every year, for the past 30 years, or even longer.
1) The Ordinary membership, which includes veterans, totals about 50,000. However, many of these are police (The Legion is a natural cop hangout; they can go there and party without running into anyone they've run in, if you get my meaning.) Coast Guard, foreign military and so on. It is statistically likely that only about 30,000 of these members have Canadian military service. Remember our Coast Guard is not an armed service.
2) The Legion is overwhelmingly white, and male. The average member is a blue-collar white guy with no post-secondary education.
The Legion maintains, in the third decade of the 21st Century, something called a "Ladies Auxiliary." This should make any female CF member squirm, and no doubt does.
3) Over the past four decades the Legion has been involved in an ever-increasing number of racist and intolerant incidents, well documented in the media, including a branch that allied itself with a skinhead group called The Warriors of Odin, and a branch that mocked and insulted Sikh men who were taking part in a billiards event. These incidents involve Blacks, Sikh, Native people and gays.
In Campbellford, Ont. a Halloween contest was won by a guy in Klan robes towing an Al Jolson lookalike on a rope. The branch president was chief judge. I'm not making this up.
A Legion branch newsletter a few years ago contained a brutal racist "joke" about Native people, and in B.C. a decorated Sikh veteran ( a retired lieutenant-colonel) was denied entry to a Branch because he wouldn't take off his turban.
The Legion bitterly opposed the introduction of the Sikh turban into the RCMP and CF uniform.
The Legion embraced the former government's decision to strip veterans of their lifetime commitment to care. To quote the president:
"It must be understood that this is something we (the Legion) can get behind. We want this legislation."
She might as well have picked up a set of pompoms and gone "Sis, Boom, Bah!"
None of this of course detracts from the fact that the Legion provides invaluable service to veterans. I am a recipient of this and will be forever grateful.
But nonetheless a loss of 10,000 members per annum means a loss of about $500,000 each year in membership dues alone, not to mention the loss of the people themselves. The Legion will probably wink out of existence in fewer than 20 years. As Thomas Andrews said to Capt. Smith: "It's a mathematical certainly. She will founder."
The numbers are as inexorable as they are irrefutable.
4) This means that the 700,000 former CF members in this country (and more to come) will no longer have anyone to intercede for them with VAC.