In a fight to keep the Squamish branch of the Royal Canadian Legion open, last week members presented council with a scroll outlining its community cash donations.
In March, District of Squamish officials axed the Legion’s $5,500 permissive tax exemption, relief the non-profit organization received in 2011 and ’12. In 2013 some councillors argued the Legion was a club with paid membership, disqualifying it from the exemption.
Although the branch charges membership fees, 90 per cent of the Legion’s earnings are mandated by law to be invested into the community, the B.C./Yukon Legion chapter’s spokesperson Sharel Fraser told council at a regular business meeting on Oct. 1.
“We are one of the largest respected non-profit organizations in this province,” she said.
The 47,000 members across the province donate $6.1 million worth of time to various events and fundraising. The branches raise $1 million in gaming, $20 million in B.C. Lotto, $850,000 through the Legion Foundation and $3.3 million during its Poppy Campaign to pour into a multitude of social programs, she said.
“We do this quietly, behind the scenes,” Fraser said.
Faced with mounting property taxes and a diminishing membership that’s changing, the Legion is heading into an era in which members have to be vocal about their contributions to society, Fraser said. It starts with wiping away misperceptions.
“We are not a gentlemen or a military club,” she said.
The Squamish branch consists of approximately 200 members. Last year the Legion dished out $20,000 to local programs and has raised $11,000 for veteran’s services.
“We want to be in a position to continue to serve with pride, distinction and accomplishment and we need your support to make this a reality,” Fraser said.
Council passed a motion to reinstate the Legion’s tax exemption. The motion will come back for final approval before the cut-off tax exemption deadline on Oct. 31.
Officials can’t hand a tax break to portions of the Squamish Valley Golf Club and not the Legion, Coun. Patricia Heintzman noted. Coun. Doug Race, who voted against the Legion’s tax exemption in March, said he didn’t realize the extent to which Legion supports the community.
The initial decision was an embarrassment, said Coun. Ron Sander, who was previously in favour of granting the Legion tax exemptions.
“So we are righting a wrong,” Sander said.