The Royal Canadian Legion is changing its definition of a veteran to include RCMP officers.
The new definition also includes peace officers who served in special duty areas, such as Ontario Provincial Police officers who worked in Haiti or officers on United Nations missions such as in Bosnia.
Legion dominion president Gordon Moore says those support operations and the recent shooting of three Mounties in Moncton, N.B., show the risks officers face at home and abroad.
“They served pretty well wherever our Canadian Armed Forces have served as a member of the police force,” Moore said Tuesday from the legion’s convention in Edmonton.
“The delegates felt very strongly that they should be included because they have been wearing the blue beret (of the United Nations), or they’ve been with the forces going over to these locations, and they deserve to be recognized as a veteran as well.”
The legion says updating the definition means it can support a broader range of veterans who need help.
Being included as a veteran means money collected in the poppy fund can be used to help officers with food, heating costs, clothing, prescription medication, medical appliances and equipment, essential home repairs and emergency shelter or assistance.
“Some of them have been injured overseas and they’ll be able to come to the Royal Canadian Legion now and we’ll be able to support that particular peace officer or what we call now a veteran,” said Moore.
The change is part of the legion’s ongoing efforts to modernize and rejuvenate membership, he said.
The legion is the largest veterans service organization in Canada with more than 320,000 members. However, the number has been falling because there aren’t any living First World War vets, Second World War vets are well into their 80s and 90s and Korean vets are into their 80s as well.
Moore said the legion needs to increase its membership to between 400,000 and 500,000 to provide more services in more communities.