The largest veterans’ organization in Canada is the Royal Canadian Legion. Formed in 1926 as an advocacy agency, the Legion sought fair treatment from the government for Canada’s veterans and their families.
The Legion expanded its mandate and activities during the Second World War to provide auxiliary services to the military. The organization set up canteens and reading rooms for soldiers in communities close to training bases and facilities and offered many of the same support services as those provided by other volunteer agencies. Following the war, the Legion was instrumental in helping returning veterans adjust to civilian, home, and family life; in helping them upgrade their education or training; and in finding work and housing.
Veterans, most of them veterans of the Frist World War, were involved in home defence programs. The Veterans Volunteer Reserve (VVR) was established by the Alberta government in 1940. During the war, the VVR boasted upwards of 7,000 members. These individuals participated in salvage campaigns and Victory Loan drives and aided various home defence initiatives.
The VVR provided auxiliary law enforcement services in rural Alberta in an effort to make up for the shortfall within the ranks of Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) —a shortfall caused by the resignation of many of its members to join the military or by the reassignment of members to other duties.
The main purpose of the VVR was to guard against fifth column activities. The VVR helped the police by keeping tabs on enemy aliens and recently naturalized citizens from enemy countries presumed to be loyal to the Axis powers. Members of the many VVR locals or chapters throughout Alberta gathered intelligence about “foreigners” in their districts, identifying their homes, eavesdropping on conversations, and ensuring they reported to the RCMP on a regular basis in accordance to the War measures Act. At times, some members demonstrated too much enthusiasm for their duties and tried to have individuals fired from their jobs, chastising and reporting them for speaking foreign languages in public or trumping up charges of treason against those who might question Canada’s participation in the war.
Tingley, Ken. “The Veterans Volunteer Reserve: Alberta Nativism in Two World Wars.” For King and Country: Alberta in the Second World War, ed. K.W. Tingley. Edmonton: Provincial Museum of Alberta and Reidmore Books, 1995.