Local groups reworking Remembrance Day for 2020

By Gordon Lambie
Local groups reworking Remembrance Day for 2020

While the tone of public discussion has been much more focused on what will happen with Halloween this year, a large number of conversations have been taking place behind the scenes with regard to Remembrance Day. Faced with a reality where the annual ceremonies in communities across the province can easily be considered high-risk gatherings, groups are being forced to think on their feet when it comes to honouring veterans past and present.
The Royal Canadian Legion’s Dominion Command sent out information on a much smaller-scale ceremony for Ottawa back at the end of the month of August, but on a more local level uncertainty has reigned as what is and is not permitted in terms of public gathering has shifted through the fall.
Guy Marchessault, President of the Sherbrooke branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, said that under the current orange alert level, the local Public Health Department limited any gathering at the city’s cenotaph to a maximum of 25 people and any service at the St. Michel Cathedral to 100. As a result, the usual parade from the church to the cenotaph has been cancelled and the service has been converted to an invitation-only memorial that will be televised and broadcast online on November 8.
“We’re doing everything at the cathedral,” he said, explaining that the cadets and reserve units that are normally in attendance will either be absent or represented only by commanding officers in order to help keep space available for as many honoured guests as possible.
Marchessault shared that the service will actually be taking place this coming weekend in order to try to ensure that there is an act of remembrance to be shared come November.
“If things go red, we can’t do anything at all,” the president said, noting that the decision to try the recorded ceremony was made only Tuesday.
Peter Gooden, President of unit 318 of the Army, Navy, and Air Force Veterans in Canada told The Record that many of the groups organizing ceremonies across the country were in the dark waiting for safety directives for their various national leadership teams until very recently. As it has become clearer what is and is not considered safe, many groups have opted to only have private or very small-scale gatherings in the name of keeping people healthy.
“It’s a no-go for now,” he said of holding a ceremony in Lennoxville, noting that some small group of three or four people might work to ensure that wreaths are laid for November 11.

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