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Veteran well-being, new members, and a youth Ambassador

Feb 20, 2024
From helping thousands of Veterans receive the help they needed, to advocating for Canadian policies and actions that will further improve Veteran well-being, the Legion is looking back on important successes in 2023. It is also celebrating a welcome increase in new membership. In this end of year review, learn more about the varied projects undertaken by the Legion’s National Headquarters and how they contributed to its overall mission.
Poppies on Tomb
(National Remembrance Day Ceremony: Individuals also honour Canada’s Veterans after ceremony)

2023 achievements at The Royal Canadian Legion’s National Headquarters

By Nujma Bond
Royal Canadian Legion National Headquarters

The Royal Canadian Legion is proud to have the largest Veteran support and community service organization in the country. Thanks to nearly 260,000 members - many of them active volunteers - it accomplished a tremendous amount over the past year to help improve overall Veteran well-being.

For the second consecutive year, the Legion’s national headquarters was proud to see new membership growth – this change follows a slow decline experienced over nearly three decades. Membership is key because it helps facilitate all the organization does to support Canada’s Veterans and their families. The organization’s focus on new and reinstated members meant that 43,000 more people joined.

With renewed growth comes renewed energy and it is percolating throughout the organization well into 2024. Last year the organization continued to directly assist Veterans, planned a national Remembrance Day ceremony, shared topical opinions with media, and advocated for change on behalf of Veterans. 

In addition, the Legion brought on a new ambassador who acted as an amazing role model for youth learning about the importance of remembering our Veterans, through the vehicle of sport.


The primary goal of the Legion is to serve Veterans and their families. That assistance can take many forms, like providing emergency funds for housing, or helping a family member access mental health support.  

Making a difference in 2024

Any Veteran, Legion member or not, can visit a branch to receive help at no charge. That help is in the form of a Service Officer. The Legion has local, provincial, and national officers all of whom are the main points of contact when a Veteran reaches out for support.

In 2023, national (Dominion Command) Service Officers provided advice and prepared and submitted over 3,200 first applications and departmental reviews to Veterans Affairs Canada. They also prepared 180 entitlement reviews, appeals and reconsideration requests.

Changes at Legion provincial commands meant an increase in workload for some national offices, who took it in stride and continued processing benefit applications and providing grants for essential items like food, medication, and emergency shelter.  

As part of their work, officers once again regularly and proactively reached out to Veterans to advise them of new benefits they might be entitled to, changes to existing entitlements including those specific to women, and reminders relevant to individual cases. Each year, the Legion hears excellent feedback from Veterans and their families who dealt with a service officer at either the local or national level, and last year was no different, with comments such as:

“My life has settled…I would not be in this position has it not been for (local service officer) and Canadians supporting the Legion’s Poppy Campaign.”

“I sent some emails to your (national service officer) office to open a new claim, and it made me reflect on how incredibly helpful you have been and the stress you alleviated knowing you were available to provide guidance and support!”

Veterans Services also helped spread the word about the help the Legion can offer, through presentations to groups including at Veteran transition centres.

Research, advocacy, and partner support

The Legion is a strong proponent of research that can lead to better outcomes for Veterans, and again in 2023, it partnered with CIMVHR (Canadian Institute of Military and Veteran Health Research) to financially support an area of medical importance. The annual $30,000 Royal Canadian Legion Masters Scholarship was awarded to a masters’ student from Mount St. Vincent University pursuing the topic of “moral injury” in Veterans.

Kathryn Reeves Masters Scholarship
(Royal Canadian Legion Masters Scholarship: Dominion President Bruce Julian announces scholarship recipient Kathryn Reeves who is studying moral injury in Veterans.)

In 2023, an announcement was made to introduce the Legion’s new PhD Research scholarship which will be a $50,000 gift to a student studying an issue of direct relevance to Veteran physical or mental well-being.

Not only does the Legion advocate proactively such as commenting in media, it works reactively behind  the scenes sending letters, having fruitful conversations with leaders, and agreeing to participate in government-related advisory group hearings about issues affecting our Veteran population.

Last year the Legion was asked by various stakeholders for its insights related to women who serve, a national veteran employment strategy, health needs assessments, and the transition from military life, among other areas of focus.

The Legion supports organizations in their parallel quests to help Veterans, or to promote remembrance. For example, in 2023 the Legion donated $100,000 to the Juno Beach Centre for its project to honour and remember the contribution of our ethnically diverse society during times of conflict and peace; and it gave close to $100,000 to help fund work on a national project by the University of Alberta to support and enhance resilience in families of Veterans.

The Legion continued to monitor the reality of the financial strain on serving members when it comes to housing - especially in high-cost regions. It is now working alongside the Military Veterans Wellness Program in Toronto which is focused on verifying military service of homeless Veterans whom police may encounter while patrolling. Once service is verified, the Legion can inform the nearest provincial command for immediate assistance.

International support

Internationally, the Legion’s headquarters is proud of the work it does on behalf of several benevolent funds and international entities such as the Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League. The Legion helped ensure the distribution of assistance to over 60 Veterans and widows in over a dozen Caribbean countries in 2023. Each person received crucial support to afford at least two meals per day. Other assistance provided to branches in the region included the provision of Poppy materials, and office and technical equipment.

The Legion remains the North American contact for Allied Veterans and widows on this continent.

National Headquarters operations

Departmental operations underpin most of what the organization achieves at a national level. In 2023, many actions were taken.

The Legion’s Poppy Store, known for its fantastic customer service, handled 51,000 parcels, and premiered various new products. For example, door and lawn ornaments, a Poppy pen and a 24k gold plated Poppy pin. The top selling items in 2023 were the Legion’s Indigenous commemorative pin, lawn sign, and 24k gold plated Poppy pin. Anyone who buys an item from the Poppy Store not only visually reflects their support for our Veterans, they enable Legion operational activities so the organization can serve Veterans, their families and communities.

Store Items
(Poppy Store: Some of the new items released in 2023)

Marketing and communications efforts contributed significantly to Poppy Store sales and year-over-year membership growth and produced several new branch support programs to help with their individual operations and communications activities. Communications assistance contributed to the successful launch of the first annual National Legion week - a time for branches to open doors, share what they do, and welcome new members. A new website resource listing over 800 (and counting) Legion-organized Remembrance ceremonies was also well-received.  

From a media standpoint, the Legion spoke out on topical issues such as Veteran homelessness, the need for gender equality in disability claims, the National Poppy Campaign, and the Legion’s Poppy Store which is filled with useful and artistic items. The Legion issued timely media releases to provide perspectives on topical events as they happened, and was a trusted information source for journalists. Its participation in stories airing nationally and regionally, helped more Canadians understand its mission, and continued to grow its profile externally.

Integral to the organization’s success have been efforts like the modernization of the membership experience with easy ways to sign up; strategic communications to share and reflect the Legion’s purpose to a wider public; and actively supporting the work of volunteers who carry out an array of activities at the branch level including organizing the yearly Poppy Campaign.

The Legion’s membership department worked behind the scenes to handle a high volume of calls and emails, providing a personal touch to assist new people who wanted to join, and helping existing branches and members with questions.

Critical tools such as the Legion’s auto renewal program and digital membership cards helped modernize the overall experience with easy ways to sign up. In addition to the new membership growth in 2023, new members joined the Member Perks program which now totals thirty-nine thousand members. Since the program started in 2020, members have saved on expenses when buying outside products and services – to the tune of 1.9 million dollars.  

A new testimonial program invited feedback from people who shared their positive experiences with Service Officers, and thoughts about the Poppy Store products. More positive feedback recorded on the organization’s social media channels reflected a great shift from unconstructive comments some years ago, to constructive today.

Leading into the National Poppy Campaign, webinars helped participating branches learn more about the 2023 “Pay Tribute” tap to donate initiative, enabling better preparedness for its execution.

Last year the Legion continued to deal with hundreds of Poppy trademark violations involving individuals or businesses using the Poppy image or selling Poppy branded Remembrance products primarily online and without permission. This ongoing crackdown remained challenging due to the constant proliferation of new ways to fool buyers. The Legion continued to spread the message that items obtained through the Poppy Store, at a branch or through an authorized seller, are the only legitimate ones.


The promotion of remembrance itself is a key pillar of the Legion’s overall work. National Headquarters considered and approved projects across the country, such as banners of remembrance and street signage inclusive of poppies. It is important that such visual projects continue to proliferate to ensure our Veteran’s sacrifices are never forgotten.

To that end, the 2023 edition of the National Youth Remembrance Contests took place, led by the Legion National Foundation and administered by the Legion’s national office alongside branches across the country. New updates to the national initiative included a new website and a video contest to complement the poster and literary portion of the yearly program.

For a second year, the Legion distributed millions of biodegradable poppies as part of its National Poppy Campaign. With poppies now made of paper and cotton, and alongside biodegradable wreaths, the Legion is doing its part to institute environmentally sustainable practices.

First Poppy 2023
(National Poppy Campaign: Second year for new biodegradable Poppies and wreaths)

As part of the November campaign, tap-enabled donation boxes distributed across the country raised close to $500,000 dollars in support of local branch Poppy Trust Funds. Since 2020 when they were first launched, generous donors have contributed over one million dollars using them. The plan is to continue to monitor the success of the boxes and increase their numbers in the future.

National corporate supporters are integral to the campaign’s success, and in 2023, there were forty, many working in tandem with local branches to help ensure people could access poppies in as many locations as possible. A new point-of-sale donation process also continued to raise awareness and funds for local branches. Sill another partner created a limited-edition high-quality tumbler in support of the National Poppy Trust Fund.

Since dollars raised locally stay local, the Legion’s headquarters facilitated the transfer of all funds received through national initiatives back to participating branches before the end of the year.

Once again in 2023 the Legion launched the latest version of “Poppy Stories” which is an initiative whereby people can visit and scan their lapel poppy to learn the story of a Canadian Veteran – connecting people more closely to those who have served and sacrificed. The 2023 version highlighted Canadian peacekeepers. A creative new “advertising blackout” campaign saw signs across the country go black at 11:00 a.m. on Remembrance Day, replaced with 11-11-11 as another means of encouraging remembrance.

Legion_LestWeForget_Advertising blackout EN_1920x1080
(Creative Remembrance Day project: Going black to promote Remembrance)

The 8th edition of the Legion’s Poppy Drop saw virtual poppies falling from the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill, and from the nearby Senate of Canada building, representing the 120,000 Canadians who have fallen in the line of service. Well-known landmarks across the country from Niagara Falls to BC Place Stadium in Vancouver were illuminated during the Remembrance period.

The Legion organized and held the country’s elaborate and respectful National Remembrance Day Ceremony at the National War Memorial in Ottawa on November 11. The annual event once again welcomed close to 30,000 in-person spectators, with millions also watching online or on television. The 2023 rendition to honour all of Canada’s Fallen Veterans also made special note of the 75th anniversary of the first United Nations peacekeeping mission.

A special highlight of the event was the presence of Canada’s National Memorial (Silver) Cross Mother who represented all mothers and families who have lost a loved one in military service to Canada. Gloria Hooper from Manitoba laid a wreath on their behalf and to remember her son Christopher Holopina who died while on duty in Bosnia.

Remembrance Day 2023_silver cross mother
(2023 National Ceremony: National Silver Cross Mother Gloria Hooper lays a wreath on behalf of all Silver Cross families.)


For a second year, the Legion’s annual National Youth Track and Field Championships returned to the outstanding university track facility in Sherbrooke, Quebec. Many hundreds of young athletes from around Canada arrived, competed, and left with an array of medals and experiences to last a lifetime, including leadership skills, new friends, and new knowledge about the rest of Canada.

National member sports championships in cribbage, darts and eight-ball brought together Legion members from across the country also for friendly competition and camaraderie, and helped highlight Legion branches in the communities where the events were held. In 2023 those locations included Cochrane and Innisfail, both in Alberta, and Aldergrove in British Columbia.


As the new year begins, the Legion is looking forward to celebrating new milestones.

It will continue to develop its National Homeless Veterans Program alongside provincial commands and partners. It will push government for a national strategy to combat Veteran homelessness, continue to advocate for a reduction in benefit processing via Veterans Affairs Canada, ask for improvements to long term care, and call for the acquisition of modern tools for still-serving Veterans in the field.

There will be a renewed focus on branch engagement so that members stay up to date on national Legion news and events. Ongoing website revival work will make it easier for readers to access the information they are looking for, and projects to enhance programs and highlight Remembrance will grow. The Legion will continue to work with national media and its strong corporate partners to share stories and remind Veterans of the help they can access through the organization.

Working with legal advisors, the Legion is in the process of further safeguarding its poppy insignia as a symbol of remembrance through both educational and legal means. National Headquarters will share a related update later this year.

Planning is well underway for the 2024 Dominion Convention taking place in Saint John, New Brunswick this year. Delegates representing all parts of the country will elect a new Dominion President and Executive team. Interested members can learn more about the upcoming convention by visiting the convention information page via

When it comes to membership, the focus will be on loyalty and retaining and growing the strong existing membership. That means further strengthening the membership portal, enhancing member benefits, and new engagement strategies.

This year will see the 2024 Legion National Youth Track and Field Championships take place in Calgary, Alberta. The games are held in the same location for two years in a row, so this positive new collaboration will continue into 2025. The championships will welcome Veteran and Invictus gold medallist Mike Trauner for a second year as the games’ Ambassador. The Dominion Member Sports Championships will also take place, to crown the best Legion players at a national level in cribbage, darts, and 8-ball.

LN 2023 Mike Trauner with athlete family
(2023 Legion Nationals: First Ambassador Mike Trauner (R) speaks to competitor’s family)

The Legion is also hosting the 2025 Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League conference in Ottawa in 2025, and planning will happen over the course of the next year. Fifty-four member organizations are expected to take part.

As always, the Legion extends its gratitude to the countless volunteers, partners, supporters and all members who enable the work undertaken to support Veterans, their families and our communities - it couldn’t be done without you!

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