A Legion local in Richmond, B.C. is facing a major hole in Remembrance Day ceremonies after someone stole 10 flags, including two that are irreplaceable on short notice.
Early on the weekend, staff discovered that two ski bags with the flags and an equal number of flag poles had been stolen from a container on the grounds of the Bridgeport Royal Canadian Legion, in an industrial area of the city south of Vancouver. Someone used bolt cutters to cut the latch to the container door.
Legion vice-president Bob Miller says members of the public have offered to replace Canadian, B.C., Union Jack and City of Richmond flags, among others, that were taken.
However, a Ladies Auxiliary flag and Branch flag for the 291 Legion can't easily be replaced and will have to be made anew.
"We can't fly our own Legion colours," Mr. Miller said incredulously, summing up the "disappointing" situation facing the 350 members of the local.
Stealing from a Legion is bad enough, he said. "But when they realized there were flags in there, why not just drop them back?"
He said Remembrance Day ceremonies will proceed nonetheless, and added that he expected stronger attendance than usual at the cenotaph in front of Richmond City Hall as a "show of force" in support of the Legion.
He said members are "devastated" and baffled about why someone would steal a legion's flags.
One theory, said Mr. Miller, is that this was a theft of opportunity by someone who thought there were skis in the bags but found flags of marginal financial value. As a result, the flags may have been dumped.
He said he hoped the thief or thieves might return the flags to the Legion, and promised no questions if that happened.
If not, he said the Legion would have to organize a hot-dog drive to raise a few hundred dollars to produce the two new flags.
This is not the local's first experience with theft. About a year ago, someone dragged the local's safe outside and used a truck to ram it against an exterior wall in an attempt to crack it open. It didn't work. After that incident, the Legion installed surveillance cameras, but none covering the container that stored decorations, furniture and the flags, which weren't deemed high-value items. Also, said Mr. Miller, no one ever expected anyone would target the container items. RCMP Corporal Stephanie Ashton, spokeswoman for the Richmond detachment, said one investigator and the forensic unit are on the case.
"Somebody knows where these flags are, whether it's a friend or family member. We just hope that somebody will have the courage to come forward and return them to the Legion,"she said.
"None of us think it's great that [the veterans] are missing their flags. We're talking about people that represented our country in the war."