Global Montreal: Chambly Legion may close, looks for new home

CHAMBLY – George Grist has called the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 39 in Chambly home for 20 years.

He’s an army veteran of the Korean War and visits the Legion every Tuesday to play bingo.

On the wall near to where he sits hangs two rows of portraits- members of the Legion who are still here, and those who are not.

“It’s a good memory of those who are gone, it’s not so good a memory of those I know are going to go but we all are so it’s a good wall,” he said.

Just like the members, this branch too could soon be gone.

Paid membership has dropped from 120 to 76 in the past ten years, and only a handful of new members have joined.

“The legion have been in trouble for a long time. This is just one of the branches that is holding on by the skin of our teeth,” said Grist.

Legion president Roland Drouillard blames the decline not only on the ageing population- but on Quebec’s laws on smoking and driving under the influence.

Simply put, the bar isn’t the big draw any longer.

“People aren’t drinking any more because they don’t want to loose their license and they can’t smoke inside here any more either,” he said.

The news of the trouble shocked Chambly Mayor Denis Lavoie.

He met with Drouillard to discuss the Legion’s future Tuesday.

Lavoie proposed a new site for the space – shared with a yet-to-be built library, a project slated to be finished in 2017.

“It’s sure the city will be on the side of the legion,” he said.

With a potential new home two years away, this could be a legion without a local.

For now Grist’s Tuesday night tradition will continue.

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