Royal Canadian Legion expels B.C. member for wearing unearned military commendations

‘Stolen valour is stolen service and it’s just totally wrong’

The Royal Canadian Legion says it has taken a landmark decision to expel two members for wearing military commendations they did not earn as the 95-year-old veterans’ organization crack downs on instances of “stolen valour.”

Legion dominion president Thomas Irvine would not identify the two members in an interview with The Canadian Press this week, except to say that one is from Ontario and the other from B.C. Each was given an opportunity to explain their actions before being expelled.

“The Legion has taken a big hit over the years on different cases of stolen valour, and justly so,” Irvine said of past criticisms the organization was not doing enough to curb such behaviour by members. “But I’m tired of it. We’ve got to put a stop to this.”

The wearing of unearned military medals and commendations has long been a sore point for serving military members and veterans. It is also an offence under the Criminal Code, with a maximum penalty of up to six months in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Police in Cornwall, Ont., last year charged a man, Terrance Birch, with wearing military medals he did not earn. He appeared in court in December and is due to re-appear for pre-trial motions on Feb. 5. Attempts to contact Birch were unsuccessful.

Not only do those who make illegitimate claims of military service or sacrifice degrade the honour of those who have served, Irvine said, they also tarnish the reputation of the Legion if they are members of the organization.

ALSO READ: B.C. Legions in need of young members to continue aiding veterans into the future

“Stolen valour is stolen service and it’s just totally wrong,” said Irvine, who was a military reservist for 23 years, including a peacekeeping tour in the Middle East. ”This kind of stuff has to stop within the legion, it’s got to stop, period, within Canada. It’s against the law.”

That is why he personally pushed for new bylaws and direction to punish those found to have claimed service or commendations falsely, Irvine said, which includes automatically expelling for life any members convicted under the Criminal Code of unlawfully wearing a military uniform or medal.

Stolen Valour Canada, an online group that uses social media to call attention to people alleged to have worn military medals and commendations they did not earn, applauded the legion’s decision to expel the two members and crack down on similar incidents.

“We remember the blood, sweat and tears that it took to earn a piece of metal attached to coloured ribbon, a strip of cloth or an embroidered badge, and that is why we get somewhat emotional about them,” Stolen Valour Canada said in an unsigned email.

“It’s really quite simple, if you didn’t earn it, don’t wear it.”

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Royal Canadian Legion

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dragon boaters being sought for a new team in Ladysmith

Men and women just need to bring along their enthusiasm and dedication

Police encourage the public to register their bicycles

It helps to have pictures, make and model in the recovery process from thefts

UPDATED with VIDEO and PHOTOS: One person treated for minor burns in Crofton fire Monday morning

Firefighters were called out at 7 a.m. to a blaze at the Twin Gables Motel

Public engagement on North Cowichan forest reserve begins this month

Consulting firm presents engagement plan at North Cowichan council meeting

SD79 finalizes $106-million budget for 2019-20

$2.1-million increase in revenue from previous year

VIDEO: Illicit drug overdoses killed 981 in B.C. in 2019, down 38%

Chief coroner says figures were down about a third in the province’s fourth year of the opioid crisis

VIDEO: B.C.’s seventh coronavirus patient at home in Fraser Health region

Canada in ‘containment’ as COVID-19 spreads in other countries

B.C. takes over another Retirement Concepts senior care home

Summerland facility latest to have administrator appointed

RCMP pull office from Wet’suwet’en territory, but hereditary chiefs still want patrols to end

Chief says temporary closure of field office not enough as Coastal GasLink pipeline dispute drags on

Prescription opioids getting B.C. addicts off ‘poisoned’ street drugs

Minister Judy Darcy says Abbotsford pilot project working

Royals, Elvis, Captain Cook: Hundreds of wax figures find new life in B.C. man’s home

Former director of Victoria’s Royal London Wax Museum still hopes to revive wax figure tourism

Teck CEO says Frontier withdrawal a result of tensions over climate, reconciliation

Don Lindsay speaks at mining conference, a day after announcing suspension of oilsands project

Okanagan man swims across Columbia River to evade Trail police

RCMP Cpl. Devon Reid says the incident began the evening of Thursday, Feb. 20

Most Read