On December 18, 1918, a group of veterans from the Great War was granted a charter by The Great War Veterans Association of Canada as East Toronto Branch. Most of these veterans were from Dawes Road, Danforth Avenue, Woodbine Avenue and East York areas.
During the early years meetings were held in individual members’ houses and subsequently at Secord Public School. In January 1924 the original McPherson Presbyterian Church building at 65 Dawes Road was purchased for $9,500.00. The first meeting at the new hall – renamed the East Toronto Veterans Memorial Hall – was held on November 11, 1924. On September 17, 1927 the corner stone for a two storey extension at the rear of the old church building was laid by the Hon. Sir Edward Kemp. The civic address for this extension was 103 Coleman Avenue. In the following years a four-plex apartment at 53-55 Dawes Road was purchased with the intent to expand again. However planning permission could not be obtained and the apartment building was sold.
In 1964 an agreement was signed with Mr. Harry Densburg, owner of the Danforth Hotel to purchase the property at 9 Dawes Road, formerly the British Empire Coal Co. After prolonged negotiations with the city, planning permission was obtained to build a three storey structure at 9 Dawes Road. The corner stone was laid on November 14, 1970 by Comrade Doug McDonald, Provincial President, and Ontario Command of the Royal Canadian Legion. The corner stone of the original building was incorporated into the new building. The official opening and dedication of the new building by Zone Padre Wm. S. Watt was held on May 1, 1971 under the Presidency of Lew Killick. Dignitaries included Mayor William Dennison, Alderman Tom Wardle, and representing the Royal Canadian Legion, Provincial President – Doug McDonald, District “D” Commander -Tony Stacey, Zone Commander “D7” -, Jim Smith, Zone Commander“D3” – L. Howard and Zone Commander “D5” – Des Ewing. The guest speaker was Dominion President J. Redmond Ross, O.B.E., K.St.J., E.D., C.D., Q.C.
The organization continued to operate under the umbrella of the Charter granted by the Great War Veterans Association of Canada until July 1926. It was then passed that the Branch would become a Branch of the Canadian Legion of the British Empire Service League. The Charter was granted on February 26, 1927 as “East Toronto (Ontario No. 11) Branch of the Canadian Legion, B.E.S.L. The last meeting of the Great War Veterans’ Association was held on June 23 1926. The first meeting as the Canadian Legion B.E.S.L. was held on July 6, 1926. The word “Royal” was added in 1952 to become The Royal Canadian Legion.
The East Toronto Veterans Memorial Hall Association was incorporated as a Corporation without share capital on December 3, 1927 by the Province of Ontario under Letters Patent #0028410. This Charter was surrendered in May 1991.
The affairs of the Branch are generally governed by the by-laws of Dominion Command and Provincial Command. Each year the general membership elects a slate of officers to manage the affairs of the Branch. The most senior officer is the President. This Executive Committee meets on a regular basis and appointments are made to various committee chairs. The committee chairs report on the status of their responsibilities on a regular basis and information is then transmitted to the general membership. All officers and members are volunteers and frequently officers’ move on to broader responsibilities at Zone and District levels.
With the increasing years and declining numbers of war veterans, it is no longer necessary to have served as a veteran to be a member of the Legion. The Royal Canadian Legion now encompasses several classes of membership all of whom contribute to the successful operation of a modern Branch. The membership of Branch 11 totals about 550 in 2007.
Purpose of the Organization
The Royal Canadian Legion is the largest veterans’- based community service organization in Canada mandated by its members to perpetuate the memory of fallen comrades and to care for the needs of veterans, service members and their families. Programs include direct assistance to veterans at the community level as well as advocacy and representational services at all levels of Government. As veterans age, their demands and those of their dependants increase and hospitals (like Sunnybrook) and long-term care facilities and residences (like Tony Stacey Centre) rely heavily on Legion support to sustain their day-to-day activities. In addition, the Legion reaches out to the local community with educational programs and support, especially to youth and services to seniors.
Branch 11, with the support of its Ladies Auxiliary, has been and still is a community leader in pursuing these activities. True to its mandate to perpetuate the memory of fallen comrades, the Branch actively endorses and contributes to the annual Poppy Fund drive. It participates in services, parades and programs surrounding Remembrance Day and works extensively with local schools in promoting knowledge and national pride through youth programs, essay and poster competitions. An extensive collection of artefacts is displayed for public viewing for one week each year to commemorate “Legion Week” and tours arranged for local school children. Over the years the Branch has provided moral and financial support for Royal Canadian Legion homes at Finch and Bathurst and also The Tony Stacey Centre (ex Legion Village) in Highland Creek. Veterans have been entertained at the Branch and at Sunnybrook Hospital. In 2004 the Branch co-sponsored a “Veterans Appreciation Concert” in Scarborough which resulted in a contribution of $13,500.00 to the Juno Beach Centre in France from the proceeds of the concert. In 2009 a similar venture resulted in a contribution of over $15,000.00 to “The Wounded Warriors Fund’. Several Branch members, in conjunction with the Branch’s official Band, have visited the memorial sites in France at Vimy Ridge, Beaumont Hamel and Juno Beach as well as many Legion activities in Canada and the United States at their own expense. Members operate and support various activities including Senior’s Club, darts, euchre, pool, dancing, travel, cribbage and other social activities. Members participate in Zone, District and Provincial championships.
The Branch is fully conscious of its obligations to the East Toronto community at large. Branch 11 has supported the aims and objectives of the Queens York Rangers Army Cadets for many years. In the past it has supported a Colour Guard and Legionette Corps. Considerable support was given to the True Davidson nursing home and contributions have supported the Canadian Red Cross, Salvation Army, District “D” nursing homes, Ontario Charitable Foundation, Legion Seniors programs, Variety Village, Youth Track & Field, Charity Walkathons, Metro Toronto Police charities and other groups. Financial support has been given to local hockey and baseball groups.
East Toronto (Ontario No. 11) Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion has been an integral part of the East Toronto community for 90 years and there is every expectation that this involvement will continue for many more years to come.