Open Letter to Ministers on Wolseley Barracks Officers' Mess Legion Offer

OPEN LETTER

 

Hon. Jason Kenney

Minister of National Defence

House of Commons Ottawa ON, K1A 0A6

 

Hon. Erin O’Toole

Minister of Veterans Affairs

House of Commons Ottawa ON, K1A 0A6

April 24, 2015

Dear Ministers:

I am writing this open letter on an urgent matter that concerns The Duchess of Kent Legion and Wolseley Barracks in London, Ontario.  As you know most of the buildings on Wolseley Barracks are scheduled for demolition, despite the fact that as recently as 2008-2015, $350,000 was spent on repairs to the buildings.  These repairs include repairs to the Officers’ Mess which will be demolished by the end of May 2015 at a cost of $20,000.

London, Ontario began as a garrison town.  The history of the city is closely connected to the history of the military presence that goes back more than 175 years to the 32 nd British Regiment Garrison. Losing the buildings at the current Wolseley Barracks is a significant blow to those who are part of the active tradition of a military presence in London.  The buildings at Wolseley house the RCR Museum, the Officers’, Sr. NCO’s and Jr. Ranks messes and until recently housed quarters for Reservists as well  as school buildings, a drill hall and transportation storage facilities. Losing these buildings is going to create some very real hardships for military personnel, civilian base employees, the Garrison Community Council and the veterans who have their regular meetings at Wolseley.

In addition to this concern is the loss of the legion hall of The Duchess of Kent Legion, Branch 263.  Due to the problems of an aging building, the members have been forced to sell the property at 499 Hill Street in London, and are looking for a place to continue to provide service to their membership and the broader community.  The Duchess of Kent makes sure that aging veterans from Parkwood Hospital are given a Thanksgiving dinner every year and at Christmas provide not just a Christmas dinner but a Christmas present for these often very lonely veterans.

The Duchess has also provided space and programme support for local naval cadets, fundraising events for Wounded Warriors and homeless veterans.  In addition to these important community functions, the legion has also sponsored an annual craft show and sale for local artisans in the neighbourhood.

The contribution of the Duchess of Kent Legion to London and to our veterans is immeasurable.  They need to find a place where they can continue their activities.  The officer’s Mess provides the perfect place for the legion to continue its work and perhaps a meeting place for other veterans. The leadership of the Duchess wishes to have the opportunity to purchase the Mess. This purchase would save DND $20,000 and keep at least one building rich in military history from demolition.

This solution would benefit Londoners, veterans and the taxpayer.  I ask that you consider this proposal and respond to The Duchess of Kent before this important building and opportunity is gone.

I hope that we can set aside our partisan differences and work together to act on this matter. I would be pleased to help connect you to the Duchess of Kent Legion’s branch President as well as the Legion’s Zone A6 Commander to discuss this matter directly. Please, do not hesitate to contact my office directly at your earliest possible convenience.

Sincerely,

Irene Mathyssen,

Member of Parliament for London-Fanshawe

 

CC: Peter Stoffer, NDP Veterans Affairs Critic

       Jack Harris, NDP National Defence Critic   

       Brian Harris, Zone A6 Commander, Royal Canadian Legion

       Bob Marshall, President, Duchess of Kent Legion