Legion History

Established in 1926, The Royal Canadian Legion is Canada’s largest Veteran support and community service organization. Membership includes people who have served in the Canadian Military, Allied Military’s, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, provincial and municipal police, Royal Canadian Air, Army and Sea Cadets, direct relatives of members and also affiliated members. Membership is now also open to the general public.

The Legion is a democratic, non-partisan, member based organization who’s mission is to serve Veterans, which includes serving military and RCMP members and their families; to promote Remembrance; and to serve our communities and our country. As the largest Veteran and community support organization in Canada, our more than 300,000 members in over 1400 Branches across Canada make a difference in the lives of Veterans and their families, provide essential services within our communities, and Remember the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for our Country.

History at a Glance

The Great War Veterans Association, founded in 1917 by Lillian Freiman, was the first national organization for veterans, and by 1919 it was the largest veterans’ organization in Canada. By the end of World War 1, there were a total of 15 Veterans groups and a number of regimental associations representing former service members in Canada. Despite their common goal – to help returned servicemen in need – their efforts were fragmented and largely unsuccessful. In 1925, an appeal for unity led to the formation of the Dominion Veterans Alliance. The Legion was founded in November of that year in Winnipeg, Manitoba as The Canadian Legion of the British Empire Services League (BESL).

In November 1925, the Canadian Legion was founded in Winnipeg, Manitoba, as the Canadian Legion of the British Empire Services League. It was incorporated by special Act of Parliament, Charter issued in July 1926 and the British Empire Services League was incorporated by the same act. The Legion grew steadily through the 1930s and then expanded rapidly following World War II. In 1960, Elizabeth II granted The Legion royal patronage and it became The Royal Canadian Legion.

Initially, the principal objectives of the Legion were to provide a strong voice for World War I Veterans and advise the government on Veterans’ issues. However, World War II brought an influx of new demands and the Legion increased efforts to help Veterans and returned service members, as well as those serving abroad.

To this day, even with numerous changes over the years, including the adoption of our current name, The Royal Canadian Legion has never faltered in our efforts to improve the lives of Veterans, ex-service members and their families. It has been our principal objective since day one, and we will continue to work for it every day forward.