COVID-19 has ensured that Remembrance Day is not going to be the same this year, but the public is still encouraged to pay their respects when the clock strikes 11 a.m. on Nov. 11.
All Royal Canadian Legion branches across B.C. that have managed to stay open during the pandemic are working hard to honour those who have served, while still adhering to COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines.
Norm Scott, president of the Legion’s Greater Victoria-area Langford branch, told Black Press Media the branch was able to reopen in June after being temporarily closed during the height of the pandemic.
“There will be a small Legion service based on Remembrance Day protocol in the name of our fallen soldiers of the past and present,” Scott said.
Branch 91 has been around since 1937, although not necessarily in the location it is in now. The branch has moved twice, and is now sitting at Station Ave — a location that will be unfortunately closed on Remembrance Day, due to the safety for everyone.
“I’d rather not have the risk and the chance of something happening and putting the legion in jeopardy,” Scott said.
All Remembrance Day ceremonies will be held virtually, with each Legion holding a maximum occupancy of 50 people, for those who choose to stay open.
The Osoyoos Legion, Branch 173, was mostly funded by K. Knudtson in 1946. The Legion has spent its entire 74-year history on 78 Street. Lyle Kent is their president.
“Our Remembrance Day ceremony on Nov. 11, will be extremely small,” Kent said. “We won’t be using any of the outdoor facilities because we won’t be able to guarantee a gathering of only 50 people.”
The Osoyoos Legion will be asking members or the general public to sign in with their name and phone number. Staff will be using this to keep track of how many people are in the building. Once it hits the 50-person cap, the branch will have to start turning people away.
Many aspects will look a little differently for Remembrance Day this year. Without the cadets handing out poppies, Legions are left to obtain poppy funds through local businesses, who put out counter boxes.
Bob Underhill, the second vice-president of The Royal Canadian Legion for the B.C. and Yukon Command, is chair of one of B.C.’s largest ceremonies – the Vancouver Remembrance Day committee for Victory Square.
Underhill says that there is a huge importance in receiving poppy funds.
“Poppy funds are held in trust and poppy funds that are collected in the area help veterans in those areas,” Underhill said. “The Legion can’t use it for anything else but to assist. That’s an important thing because a lot of people don’t understand that. We are very strict on where money can be used.”
This year, like most of the 1,350 different Legion branches across the country, Vancouver’s ceremony won’t be garnering its typically large crowd, instead allowing virtual access through livestreams and broadcasts.
To adhere to COVID-19 guidelines, many Legions have decided to lay wreaths themselves this year, in a spaced-out fashion.
To encourage social distancing, Kent said Osoyoos members will take each wreath to lay at the local cenotaph before the ceremony commences. The Victoria Legion has decided to do the same.
If people still wish to lay their own wreath, they are welcome to do so as long as it is outside the normal time of the eleventh hour of the eleventh day, Kent said.
“And turn on your TV for 11 a.m., Nov. 11 and watch the ceremony, and remember as we all will. “
Poppy donations can be placed online at legion.ca
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