Canada Celebrates their Centennial

100 years of Lion service

Six thousand Commemorative Friendship Pins are already in circulation in Canada to celebrate the centennial. More are being offered through district governors and representatives for CAN$2 each or 3 for CAN$5.

There are 47,000 Lions clubs in the world, but only one, the Windsor Downtown Lions, can say they made Lions an international organization.

“And you’ll hear their club members say it over and over and over again. ‘We’re the club who made Lions Clubs International,’” says Past International President Judge Brian Stevenson of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. “No other club will ever have that opportunity.”

One and a half miles and an invitation was all it took in 1920 for Lions to cross national borders and become Lions Clubs International. Three years after Melvin Jones founded the first Lions club in Chicago, the Detroit Downtown Lions in Michigan extended an invitation across the Detroit River to the businessmen in nearby Windsor, Ontario, Canada. They accepted.

The club, founded on January 10, and chartered with Jones’ signature on March 12, 1920, was called the Border Cities Lions Club, now known as the Lions Club of Windsor Downtown. It has been active ever since – so active that a new person has served as president every year for 100 years, says Lion Ron Devos.

But wait. After 100 years of service, the Lions of Canada have more to boast about.

Four international presidents have hailed from their country, among them PIP Harry A Newman who deepened Lions dedication to sight conservation when in 1925 he escorted Helen Keller to the podium. It was there at the 9th annual international convention where she challenged Lions to be knights of the blind.

And there’s Fonthill Ontario Lion Doug Stephenson who in 1954 scripted, “We Serve,” the motto chosen from 6,000 entries in the Lions’ motto contest.

And there were the Canadian Lions who, in an early version of “paying it forward” helped start the first Lions club in the United Kingdom, the London Host Lions, in 1950, extending the hand of Lions to another country.

About 35,000 Lions in more than 1,500 clubs now serve the largest country in North America. Although most are concentrated in a belt along the 5,525-mile U.S.-Canada border, they are represented in each of the 10 provinces and three territories. Their projects, large and small, in the millions and in the hundreds, vary like the people, their needs, and the towns from which they come.

“The main cause with all of our clubs is to make the community a better place to live, work, and play. It invites and challenges each member and each club to do their part,” says PIP Stevenson, a member of the Calgary Northeast Eye Opener Lions Club, whose signature project is a Saturday morning bingo at an extended care center.

There are many projects underway to recognize the centennial. PID Gilles Melançon of Quebec, with the help of many Canadian Lions, has compiled the eBook, "History of Lionism in Canada – 1920 to 2020.” Available at, it showcases the service of Lions across the country.

And PID Yves Léveillé of Quebec has seen to the design and distribution of Commemorative Friendship Pins being sold through district governors and representatives in Canada. Six thousand are already in circulation, and more will be offered for CAN$2 each or 3 for CAN$5.

Canadian Lions are marking the anniversary with a National Tree Planting Project, hoping to see Lions plant 100,000 trees across their constitutional area. PID Art Woods of Elmira, Ontario, who started the Lions Foundation Memorial Forest in Breslau, Ontario, thinks they will far exceed the expectations.

“Canadian Lions remain very committed to global causes, especially the environment,” says International 3rd Vice President Dr. Patti Hill, a 30-year member of the Edmonton Host Lions in Alberta, Canada. “We feel very strongly about protection of the environment as a nation. Connection to nature is engrained in our culture.”

In addition, Lions of Canada are encouraging clubs to take on a signature centennial project that will be meaningful to their community, hoping projects will be concluded by June 30, 2021 in time for the 104th International Convention in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. “The celebration of our centennial of service give us an opportunity to recommit to service in our communities, across our country, and around the world,” Hill says. “At the root of Lionism, we are all about serving our community.”

Celebrations? There will be many across Canada.

On March 21 the Windsor Downtown Lions Club, who founded and own the CAN$4.5 million Lions Manor with apartments for the blind and the seniors, will host a 100th Anniversary Dinner. With District A-1, they have set a goal to raise CAN$100,000 over the next three years for the purchase of ophthalmological equipment for hospital emergency departments.

Rest assured, many more goals and projects will follow to not only celebrate but further the Lion name in Canadian history.

The Wasaga Beach Lions Club in Ontario already kicked off the 100th anniversary by donating CAN$5,000 extra this Christmas to provide 100 Christmas hampers through the Ministerial Food Bank. They were proud to help pack them.

In the tiny village of Fillmore, Saskatchewan, the Fillmore District Lions Club will continue a 60-year gesture of kindness, providing funeral transportation for families in the community, transporting mourners to and from the church and the cemetery to ease the minds of grieving families.

In Cloyne, Ontario, the Lions Club of Land O’ Lakes remains committed to keeping the doors open to the community hall, knowing it’s crucial to combatting the very real health concern of social isolation. Seniors gather weekly for euchre and bingo there. Children’s activities, weddings, funerals, and birthdays are marked there. It’s a place for everyone. And on the first Saturday of May, the Lions Day of Service, members help some of those same seniors with spring cleaning and yard work, but also take time to sit and chat.

In Leduc, Alberta, Canada, the Leduc Lions’ environmental focus on long term sustainable projects continues with the installation of a ground-mounted solar system at the Leduc Lion’s Campground and RV Park. It consists of 648 panels that will generate enough energy to offset 100 percent of the power needed at the campground.

In Calgary, Alberta, the Calgary Sarcee Lions, just two years old, make it a priority to feed the homeless. Every Wednesday evening the Lions can be found at Fobs Bakery collecting the day’s bread, buns, and pastries to take to the Drop-in-Centre in downtown Calgary where they accommodate about 1,500 homeless people. In the Northwest Territories, the Lions of Yellowknife – Canada’s northernmost club – continues to do vision screenings, but also steps up to support their community’s winter carnival, Long John Jamboree. They cut the large blocks of ice for the ice carving competition. This year it was sunny, but the temperature was about -30 degrees Fahrenheit, says club president Don Finnamore.

“Lion service in Canada is deeply rooted in meeting community needs, but it’s also influenced by our international point of view,” says Hill. “Our Lions are as diverse as our communities and our service, and as diverse as the need. We’re very proud of our Lions.”