Remembrance Day planners scrambling as COVID-19 upends conventional ceremonies

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

Revealed Saturday, October 10, 2020 5:59PM EDT

OTTAWA – The Royal Canadian Legion is taking the unprecedented step of discouraging Canadians from attending Remembrance Day ceremonies this 12 months as COVID-19 upends the normal methods of honouring those that sacrificed their lives for Canada.

Legion branches throughout the nation are scrambling to plan stripped-down variations of the annual sombre ceremonies on Nov. 11 as many native governments limit large-scale gatherings because of the rising variety of new COVID-19 instances.

That features in Ottawa, the place as many as 30,000 Canadians collect alongside tons of of veterans and serving army personnel yearly to mark Remembrance Day on the Nationwide Conflict Memorial.

This 12 months’s nationwide ceremony will embrace many conventional components such because the taking part in of Final Submit and the lament, the singing of In Flanders Fields together with the increase of cannons, prayers and a army flyby, stated legion director of communications Nujma Bond.

However some modifications as a consequence of COVID-19 will probably be unmistakable, with the choice to cancel the parade of aged veterans, serving army members and school-aged cadets that has lengthy been a fixture of the occasion.

The Division of Nationwide Defence has determined to not have cadets attend in-person Remembrance Day occasions throughout Canada, stated spokesman Daniel Le Bouthillier. The involvement of Canadian Armed Forces personnel can also be being restricted, he added, with selections made on a case-by-case foundation.

The choice to cancel the annual veterans’ parade in Ottawa is especially placing given the shrinking variety of Canadians nonetheless alive who served within the Second World Conflict and Korea. Some now of their 80s and 90s have braved the chilly for many years to attend the ceremony, however age places them at excessive threat from COVID-19.

As an alternative, solely a handful of individuals will probably be readily available on the cenotaph, because the Legion asks Canadians abide by native public-health pointers and watch the ceremony on TV or on-line somewhat than in particular person.

“For the primary time ever, we will probably be discouraging spectators from coming right down to the Nationwide Conflict Memorial,” stated Bond. “It is most positively a disgrace this 12 months that we’re all having to work inside the constraints that this pandemic has introduced.”

About 30,000 individuals attend the nationwide ceremony yearly, Bond added.

The identical reluctant request is being made by legion branches in different components of the nation at the same time as organizers iron out particulars amid shifting public-health pointers.

A kind of is Legion Department 5 in Thunder Bay, Ont., whose annual out of doors parade and ceremony usually entails as much as 150 veterans, army personnel, cadets and volunteers, and is noticed by round 500 individuals.

“Clearly with the restrictions which are positioned on us by the province and the native well being unit, we had been right down to 100 as a result of we had been outdoors,” stated department president Lester Newman. “We’re nonetheless undecided if that is been fully whittled down once more, which might all however cease it.”

(The Ottawa ceremony has town’s permission for as much as 100 individuals because of the nature of the commemoration, Bond stated, “although clearly something can occur between at times.”)

Newman, who served 42 years as a naval reservist earlier than retiring as a lieutenant-commander, stated he has been attending Remembrance Day ceremonies for many years and that it’s “a part of my make-up.”

The occasion organized by Legion Department 5 is especially necessary for remembering the three troopers from Thunder Bay who died in Afghanistan, Newman stated. Cpl. Anthony Boneca, Pte. Robert Costall and Pte. Josh Klukie died in separate incidents in 2006.

Regardless of the restrictions in Ottawa and elsewhere throughout Canada, Bond stated the ceremonies will stay unchanged of their reverence paid to Canada’s veterans, and a number of the acquainted components.

“And we’re very hopeful and invite individuals to take part in different methods,” she added. “It is such a key second for the Legion yearly, it is a key second for veterans, and for a lot of Canadians.”

Methods to take part embrace not solely watching on TV or on-line, however carrying poppies as soon as they turn into accessible later this month and recognizing two minutes of silence at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11 irrespective of the place persons are.

Nonetheless, “it’s unhappy that we’ve to restrict the numbers,” stated Bob Underhill, vice-president of the legion’s operations in B.C. and Yukon and head of the organizing committee for the ceremony in Vancouver’s Victory Sq..

The Victory Sq. ceremony is believed to be the second largest in Canada after Ottawa’s, with about 20,000 individuals attending every year. However this 12 months, Underhill stated the quantity is being saved underneath the native most of 50.

“We’re attempting to rearrange for our bands and soloists to do their half nearly, to not entice individuals right down to Victory Sq.,” Underhill stated.

“We will have our official wreath-laying on the web site, however we’ll try to reduce what we’re truly doing on the web site in order to not entice consideration and get individuals gathering as a result of we’re underneath the 50-person most. It may be very completely different.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first revealed Oct. 10, 2020.