Column: ANAVETS #305 to celebrate its 50th anniversary

Army, Navy, and Air Force Veterans in Canada, Chilliwack Unit #305 will be celebrating its 50th anniversary on February 27.

Army, Navy, and Air Force Veterans in Canada, Chilliwack Unit #305 will be celebrating its 50th anniversary on February 27.

There are over 18,000 members in the association across Canada and membership includes those who have served in the military, the RCMP, provincial and municipal police, their direct relatives, and individuals who are interested in joining.

The Army, Navy, and Air Force Veterans in Canada is the oldest veterans’ Association and, while its origins are not totally clear, it is known that in 1840 Queen Victoria gave a charter to create a unit in Montreal.

The association was originally composed of volunteers who answered the call when the Government of Canada enlisted men for active service during the Fenian Raids of 1866 to 1871, the Red River Expedition of 1870, and the North-West Rebellion of 1885.

The Fenian Raids in particular had a long reaching ripple-effect. The Fenians were a secret society of Irish patriots living in the U.S. and many were veterans of the American Civil War. In 1865, Britain crushed the Ireland-based independence movement. Embittered, the Finians launched a series of raids into Canada – seen as attacks on Britain – over a five-year period starting with the raid on Campobello Island in New Brunswick in 1866. Some of them were under the delusion they could take Canada and hold it hostage for Irish independence.

While their invasions were complete failures, Canada’s militia highlighted shortcomings with subsequent commitments to reforms and improvement. The onset of the Fenian experience along with concerns over the growing American influence pumped a sense of Canadian nationalism, unity, and protection, bringing the provinces into confederation with the formation of the Dominion of Canada in 1867.

Today, the name ANAVETS comes from the remnants of British and French colonial regiments who remained in Canada when they were recalled at the end of their tours of duty. Those who stayed to protect the colonies organized themselves as the Army Veterans in Canada.  When sailors from the Royal Navy remained and joined with the Army veterans, the name changed to the Army and Navy Veterans in Canada. Then, during the Second World War, Air Force veterans were welcomed and the name was changed once more to become the Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans in Canada, or more fondly now known as ANAVETS.

The three-tier system operates at the national, provincial and local levels. The Chilliwack Unit was granted a Charter on February 27, 1966. A previous Charter had been formed in 1947 and known as Vedder Crossing, Unit #305, but it disbanded in 1949. The current Chilliwack Unit is now one of 18 in British Columbia.

“The first location of our Unit was across the street from our present facility and was affectionately nick-named ‘the hole in the wall,’” said Anna Marie Dolan, President. “We were open once a week, Fridays, and every week a different member took out a liquor licence to hold the gatherings. All the amenities were built by volunteers. Although membership grew, money was scarce but members managed to scrape together funds through donations for a new facility.”

She said that the present clubrooms were officially opened on December 19, 1970. The premises were originally leased but were purchased in 1977 and the mortgage was ceremoniously burned in 1984. In the years since, Unit #305 has flourished and she is especially proud of the younger members who have joined and embraced the goals and traditions of veterans.

Annually the Unit contributes $14,000 to local charities including among others the Chilliwack General Hospital, Ann Davis Transition Society, Crime Stoppers, and BC Children’s Hospital.

The 50th anniversary is February 27 at 1 p.m. at 46268 Yale Road, Chilliwack.

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