Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Saving a Sanctuary - the Royal Canadian Legion McMurray Branch 165 Hall

It is with a heavy heart and sadness that I  heard this morning about the woes currently facing our local Royal Canadian Legion. It appears the legion has fallen on some hard financial times, and this venerable institution in our community is at risk of falling apart, as there is a suggestion the legion building be sold to repay a debt that has risen to $200,000. There is a problem with this plan, though - and the problem is that the sale of the legion hall would leave many, including our veterans, high and dry.

I know what some of you are thinking: what veterans? You are likely thinking all our veterans are almost gone, those who fought the great world wars and who are now elderly and sadly and quietly departing from our world, taking with them their precious memories of a time few can now recall. Except we now have a huge number of veterans, including a large number in our community. Where are these veterans coming from, you ask? They are the ones who served our country in places like Somalia and Afghanistan. They too are veterans who have seen military action. They too have come home from places far away, bearing wounds of both a physical and emotional nature. And they too need the support a legion brings.

I had the opportunity to speak to someone recently about what a legion does, and what it means to veterans. The legion is a place of support, and security, and safety. It provides a place to not only honour our veterans but a place for them to gather and share their common experiences, and to work on healing from wounds that some of us can only begin to imagine. It is not just a building, you see. A legion hall is a sanctuary for those that have given so much, and often gotten so little in return.

I think at times we expect those who have returned from military duty to just "fit in". My father spoke about this, how men who came back from war were fundamentally changed by the experience. My father, who volunteered to serve in WWII but was turned away due to health issues, told stories of his fellow farmers who came back and could no longer handle sudden noises or sharp sounds, things that evoked the crack of a rifle shot in their minds. They could not cope with everyday stresses, and the impact on their families and communities was enormous. He also spoke of how little understanding there was when those veterans returned, and how everyone just assumed they would assimilate back into the community and that small farming community, and he spoke about how often they would fall apart, occasionally succumbing to addictions, or even to suicide.

We have, thankfully, come a long way. We understand the concepts of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and we know that experiencing traumatic events can fundamentally alter us in ways we may not anticipate. We have learned that not all injuries our veterans incur leave a visible scar, and we have begun to explore ways to support them. But if we allow the local legion hall to fall then we have failed them, you see. We will have failed to provide them with perhaps the most important part of the healing process - a sanctuary where they can be together, and give each other the respect, space, time, and help they need to cope with coming back from experiences most of us cannot comprehend.

This coming Monday, December 16, at 6:30 pm, there will be a public meeting at the legion hall in Waterways. The closure of the hall would impact many groups, as there are others who use this facility for various purposes, but those it would harm the most are those we cannot in good conscience allow to be further harmed. These are the people who chose to serve in our military, and who accepted tasks that many of us would reject as being too difficult or too demanding of ourselves. They have served our country, and us, and to allow them to lose their sanctuary would be a travesty in my mind, because they have already given so much. I think gathering together as a community to help them to save their sanctuary - their home - is the least we can do to begin to repay our debt to their courage, commitment, and sacrifice. I encourage all interested individuals to attend, to learn more about the legion, and to find a way to save the Royal Canadian Legion McMurray Branch 165. I believe, quite frankly, it is our responsibility - and our duty - to them to do so. This is a time when they need us, as we have so often needed them to serve us - and I sincerely hope we do not fail them in their time of need.

Community meeting on
December 16
6:30 pm
The Royal Canadian Legion
McMurray Branch 165

9317 Huggard St
Fort McMurray


  1. Alberta-NWT Command: I am sorry but there will not be a meeting on Dec 16th 2014 as there is not enough information at this time to determine which way to move forward.

  2. The Royal Canadian Legion Alberta - N.W.T. Command 2020 15th Street NW Calgary Alberta T2M 3N8 Email - Phone: 403-284-1161 | Fax: 403-284-9899