The Royal Canadian Legion has released a new policy that forbids association with any hate group, a directive that comes after an event in northern Alberta nearly two months ago.
In May, the Dominion Command condemned an Easter dinner hosted by the far-right group Soldiers of Odin (SOO) at the Grande Prairie legion on April 22; some SOO members were also legion members.
In the aftermath of the controversy, the Royal Canadian Legion said it would re-examine its policies. It unveiled the new policy earlier this month.
“No branch or command within the legion may affiliate itself in any manner whatsoever with a group or organization that promotes or is known to promote hatred or violence due to ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation or any social determinant,” the policy reads.
“This also applies to legion support of groups affiliated with organizations that espouse hostility.”
The policy means a branch cannot allow a hate group or a group affiliated with a hate group to hold an event at the branch, and members of hate groups cannot become members of the legion.
Nujma Bond, a spokesperson for the Royal Canadian Legion, said the organization does not plan to compile a list of identified hate groups but clarified that the policy covers the Soldiers of Odin.
“The expectation is that branches and commands across the country will do their research including consulting with local law enforcement or other agencies or the Legion’s Dominion Command as needed,” Bond said.
“As branches and commands operate independently, they may have their own series of checklist questions that they normally use when they book their venues.”
The policy also stated that while Legion members must use their best judgment to ensure compliance, the final say on what qualifies as a prohibited group rests with the Dominion Command.
In addition, any branch of command that is uncertain about a group’s history or suitability to associate with the legion must seek advice from Provincial or Dominion Command.
Members who do not follow the policy can be punished, up to and including expulsion.
Evan Balgord, executive director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, said the new policy is clear and hits on important points, such as Dominion Command making the final call and requiring local chapters to reach out for help if needed.
“I think it’s good work on their part. Now it’s going to come down to making sure they communicate this policy and that it’s followed by their many, many branches across Canada,” he said.
“They’re just going to have to make sure all their branch managers realize the seriousness of this. It has been embarrassing for the organization, so really communicating that to the branch managers and making sure each of them reads the policy.”
The investigation into the Grande Prairie event at the legion is ongoing. Bond said any corrective actions would be outlined after it is complete.