The doors to Tofino’s Royal Canadian Legion Branch #65 will remain locked for the rest of the summer.
All events, dart league, gigs, steak nights, and celebrations of life are cancelled, including the 37th annual Legion Family Fishing Derby. The only community service they are continuing is the weekly Fish and Loaves free food distribution on Tuesdays.
“We are looking at it as a socially responsible way to really protect our community because the Legion is such a social community venue, we really made the decision based on our social responsibility not on taking away some of the fun for people,” said Tofino Legion secretary Jess Harris.
“How do you maintain the distance of dancing?” she continued. “Other places might be doing it, but for us we just took on the role of being highly cautious and really more socially responsible to our small community and the fact that we only have one hospital.”
The next executive board meeting is scheduled for the end of August. At that point, they will re-examine their decision after looking over the newest regulations from the government and head command, notes Harris.
There are over 1,350 Legions across the country. Many are struggling due to the COVID-19 closures and find themselves in dire need of financial aid. The Royal Canadian Legion’s national headquarters fears at least 10 per cent of legions in Canada will be forced to close permanently in the next few months unless there’s financial intervention.
Harris said the Tofino Legion is “staying afloat” and can afford the option of extending their lockdown.
“We still have our long-term tenants, the Vancouver Island Library and the Tofino Clayoquot Heritage Museum, in there so we are still receiving rental income,” she said.
Another important factor in keeping the doors closed for the season is age of the members who attend functions at the Legion, Harris said.
“Whether it’s bingo or dart league, a lot of them are of an older population. That’s just the plain honest truth. We don’t want to expose that generation to the virus,” she said.
Having a beer with friends and playing pool at Tofino’s Veterans club will happen again, it just might not be until the winter, Harris foresees.
“Of course one day we are going to re-open,” she said.
In the meantime, Harris said there are opportunities for community members to help improve the Legion during the closure. She went on to list odd jobs like painting the inside, reupholstering chairs, or raising money to get new tables or a new dance floor.
“There is certainly work that can be done. We would love it if someone wants to help with upkeep and repairs,” said Harris.
This isn’t the first time the Tofino Legion has closed for an extended period of time. In the nineties, an electrical fire caused extensive damage to the hall and the Legion shut down for about six months to repair and rebuild.