It’s been a fixture in LaSalle since 1963. The Royal Canadian Legion on Bouvier Street has been a popular gathering place for about 300 war veterans, retired police officers and seniors. The legion’s future is now in doubt. It may be forced to close due to unpaid tax bills. An estimated $70,000 is needed by next month.
Though the task seems difficult, legion members say they will do their best to save the centre. They have organized three major fundraisers in October.
« For many of our veterans, this is the only place they have, » says Legion President Raymond Cormie. « They need their place to communicate with one another. We need the support of the community. We need them to give us a hand and buy tickets. »
The first event is a comedy show October 19 featuring comedian Joey Elias. The event takes place at the legion. On October 21, there is a roast beef dinner fundraiser at O’Connor’s Resto-Café on Lapierre Street. The third event, a musical jamboree by The Clahanes, is scheduled for October 27 in the legion’s main hall. Tickets for each event are $20 per person.
The problems for the legion began back in 2013, when the organization lost its tax-exempt charitable status. It has meant a dramatic hike in its annual property tax bill. It jumped almost tenfold, from about $3,000 to $30,000.
« That’s hard for a non-profit organization like ourselves. It’s terrible and disrespectful, » explains Bruce Allan, LaSalle Legion Vice-President. « It’s like the municipal government forgot what these veterans did for us. »
The legion has applied to the City of Montreal to have its tax status reviewed. It’s requesting a tax exemption. The legion in Lachine faced a similar crisis recently. Cormie is urging the province of Quebec to step in.
« The province should follow in the footsteps of Alberta. Over there, there is province-wide tax relief for all legions, » says Cormie.
Whether the fundraising efforts are successful or not, organizers say their planned Remembrance Day activities will go ahead as planned. They are scheduled for November 4, the day the funds are due.
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