The Valemount Legion is supporting BC/Yukon Command’s submission to the Province on changing liquor regulations to allow children into the Legion at special events where food is served.

The Royal Canadian Legion’s BC/Yukon Command met with Parliamentary Secretary John Yap in Victoria last month as part of the Provincial Liquor Policy Review. President Angus Stanfield and Executive Director Inga Kruse presented the Legion’s nine page submission, detailing the impediments they currently face, and outlining the changes they would like to see in liquor regulations.

According to their submission, the Legion’s lounge-based revenue is the foundation for funding the work that the Legion does. A mix of volunteers and employees staff the lounges, which are among the largest generators of gaming revenue for the province and directly reinvested in BC communities. As one the largest contributors to community programs in small cities, towns and villages, the BC Command argues that increasing revenues for the Legion would increase revenues for the province, as well as the Legion’s ability to support community services and programs for veterans. The Legion also feels that their proposed changes would promote more social responsibility, and would give families and communities, especially small ones, more options for places to hold special events.

Most of the province’s 152 Legion branches are licensed as “Liquor Club Primary” which does not permit minors, and they say it is onerous and complex to get a Special Occasion License. Children are currently only allowed in BC Legion lounges under very specific circumstances.

The Legion wants to be able to allow minors at events held at the Legion, like Celebrations of Life, weddings, funerals and other special occasions, as well as when food is served during Legion Week, Veterans Week, Canada Day and Remembrance Day. Minors would still need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian during the event. They say it would allow families to interact with Veterans and learn about social responsibility and giving back to communities.

Another barrier in current liquor laws is that Legions are not permitted to sublet their kitchens and catering services. Legion kitchens have traditionally been staffed by the Ladies Auxiliary and other volunteers, but the Ladies Auxiliary is non-existent in many branches. The Legion sees an opportunity in being able to provide food service during its regular hours of operation and for special events, but running a kitchen is a serious and time intensive endeavour, which is no longer feasibly done with volunteers, they say. Allowing branches to sublet their kitchen services could mean job creation, increased revenue for local economies and the provincial government, and improved responsibility by consistently having food service available to patrons, Legions argue.

BC/Yukon Command’s submission notes a common misperception is that Legion branches are in competition with local restaurants, businesses and clubs. It notes the distinction that the Legion exists for the very purpose of reinvesting in the community.

Terri Dammann, Valemount Legion Vice President and Deputy Zone Commander, says this branch is in full support of these recommendations to the Liquor Review. She says many Veterans are much younger nowadays, with young families, and being able to come to the Legion to socialize with their families is important.

“Society is changing,” Dammann says. “It used to be that Vets would come here to forget their problems. Now they want to fix them.”

Allowing the Legion to increase their revenue would increase the work they do to support local veterans, and the community as a whole.

“A lot of Legions will close if we don’t get this change,” says Dammann.

Yap has been meeting with stakeholders to gather information on what they would like to see changed in the Provincial liquor regulations. The province has also created a website, open until Oct. 31, where the public can view submissions from the stakeholders submitted so far, post comments on Yap’s blog about various aspects of liquor regulation, and learn about how the liquor system works today. Yap will submit his report to the Attorney General and Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton by Nov. 25.

The Province is reviewing all aspects of liquor policy in BC, including licensing, control and distribution. Yap has been asked to provide recommendations that reflect current lifestyles and societal values, provide flexibility, recognize the importance of jobs and investment in hospitality, tourism and agrifoods sectors, ensure a sustainable liquor manufacturing sector and an effective distribution system, while ensuring government revenue is maintained or increased, and health and social harms caused by liquor are minimized. To have your say on the liquor review process, you can visit the provincial government’s website.

By: Korie Marshall