The reason for the exemption is simply to honour Canadian veterans for their role in defending the country.
“It is out of respect for Ontario’s veterans and the sacrifices they’ve made to protect our country that this exemption has been provided,” health ministry spokesman David Jensen said.
This was also confirmed by a provincial tobacco control specialist, who liaises with the Windsor Essex County Health Unit.
Program coordinator Adam Pilieci said: “Out of respect for Ontario’s veterans and the sacrifices they have made to protect our country, the government is providing an exemption to the smoking prohibition for uncovered patios established by a legion before November 18, 2013.”
As well, Pilieci said, “there are two residential facilities for veterans listed in the regulation that are permitted to operate controlled smoking areas (indoor smoking rooms), despite the prohibition against smoking in enclosed workplaces.”
Other than a generic government decision no one seems to know if any individual brought forward this proposal, such as a citizen, politician or even the Legion itself.
“No, I don’t have background information on that right at hand,” Jensen said.
But, he said, “We recognize that the smoking on patios will not be popular with everyone so we’re proposing an exemption for the Ontario Royal Canadian Legion.”
Surprisingly, even the Royal Canadian Legion itself was taken off guard by the exemption.
Dave Gordon, executive director of Ontario Command, said, “We were just as surprised as everybody else. We didn’t know. I didn’t know about it.”
Gordon also said he has “no idea in the reasoning behind it, I have no idea where it came from, and I can assure you that we were never approached by anybody from the ministry of health.”
Asked how he feels about the exemption Gordon deferred to the Legion’s branches.
“It’s for the branches it’s not for Ontario Command,” Gordon said.
“The branches are autonomous and operate on their own.”
And Canada’s largest lobbying organization against smoking apparently has no comment regarding the exemption.
Melodie Tilson, political director of the Non-Smokers’ Rights Association in Ottawa, did not return two phone calls asking for comment.