Every year for the past 12 years, members and guests of the St. James
Legion celebrated Canada Day by holding an outdoor patio party.
But, not this year.
At a time when a city commission has just released a hefty report recommending the elimination of red tape, it seems city red tape finally caught up with the St. James Legion.
For 12 years legion volunteers had set up picnic tables, started up barbeques for cooking hot dogs and hamburgers and fenced in the upper parking deck after simply paying $121 to the Manitoba Liquor Control Commission for a special event permit. Then the party would begin, which included music, songs and heartfelt toasts to Canada’s birthday.
But, not this year.
The city interceded, saying that the
legion was required to pay an extra $241 so that the set-up for the Canada Day celebration could be inspected. It’s a lot of money for a cash-strapped club, even though it has the most members in Manitoba — actually all legions and veterans’ organizations across Manitoba and Canada are suffering financially — and what extra funds they may have go to the community in support of youth and veteran programs.
But, what really got them a tad miffed was that they were told at the last minute that a city inspection was required, and even with the inspection they could receive no guarantee that their structure would be approved.
As well, they simply didn’t have the volunteers available to build the fencing in the wee hours of the morning, tear it down after the inspection and then rebuild it for the party that was slated to start at noon and end at six. It seemed like too much labour for the sake of just six hours enjoyment of the sun and Canada’s birthday.
Weeks of planning went down the drain and rather than go through the hassle dictated by the city, a decision was reached to move the party inside on Canada Day.
Friday afternoon turned out to be marvelous. For once this summer, the weather was co-operating with old sol beating down his warming rays with only a hint of clouds in the sky.
Many still came, but others decided they would partake of other outdoor Canada Day celebrations that were taking advantage of the splendid weather. Still others arriving at the legion commented that they thought the party was being held outdoors. Then a whole new round of explanations as to why the outdoors was out of the question had to be made.
It’s also a pity that the very people who have the best reason to enthusiastically celebrate Canada Day had to be disappointed. St. James Legion is a veterans’ organization and it was they and their comrades across Canada who fought to uphold the very freedoms that make Canada a special place in which to live.
If anyone deserves to be cut a little slack, it’s Canada’s veterans, many of whom still bear the physical scars of battlefield wounds and the mental scars of seeing their comrades die fighting in support of their country. Unlike most of us, they truly know the horrors of war.
Also, most of the veterans supporting the legion are from the Second World War, and the ones still surviving — many have died in recent years — are in their 70s and 80s and won’t be around much longer to celebrate future Canada Days, so every benefit, however small, is now greatly appreciated by them.
While the ranks of Second World War and Korean veterans are now thinning, unfortunately more veterans, though less in number, are being created every day. There has never been a “War To End All Wars” as promised during past conflicts.
“There are members of this legion who are now fighting the Taliban
in Afghanistan,” interjected Wayne
Newman, the organizer of the Canada Day celebration at the legion, in obvious frustration that the event had to
be moved indoors into the legion’s
Perhaps things could have been done a little differently. The liquor permit could have been taken out sooner and the city then could have given more notice of its inspection requirement, allowing the legion to set aside more funds and time to organize a few more volunteers. But, because they had been doing the same thing for 12 years without the city saying boo, they didn’t expect any last-minute problems.
Perhaps some good-hearted city inspector with the support of his or her manager(s) could have joined the ranks of many who had already volunteered and donated his or her time to ensure the legion got it right with the least amount of hassle on Canada Day. That certainly would have warranted a good round of applause and would have struck a significant chord for community relations.
But, it’s always easy to reflect in hindsight upon what might have happened. What is only certain is that the members and guests of the St. James Legion had to move their Canada Day celebration indoors for the first time in 12 years and there were a lot of very disappointed people because of that.