With public Remembrance Day ceremonies cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, local branches of the Royal Canadian Legion are now being advised to stay closed on Nov. 11 as well.
An advisory issued Friday by the president of BC/Yukon Command, Valerie MacGregor, said a worrisome escalation in the number of COVID-19 cases across British Columbia has prompted provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry to recommend the cancellation of all indoor events or gatherings planned for Nov. 11.
MacGregor said closing all branches would be in “the best interest of our veterans, members and their families.”
Bob Chapman, the president of the Coquitlam legion branch 263 on Ridgeway Avenue, said it will be the first time he can recall the facility being closed on Remembrance Day.
“Remembrance Day is our best day of the year,” he said
Chapman said while the branch didn’t have any formal events scheduled, he had expected a steady stream of visitors through the day while maintaining capacity at less than the 50 recommended for gathering indoors safely. He said the veterans will miss the opportunity to get together.
“It’s a big deal for them to be honoured and sit down with their peers and tell stories,” he said of the veterans who visit the hall on Remembrance Day.
Brenda Millar, president of Port Moody legion branch 119, said the cancellation of two private ceremonies it planned to hold for veterans and members is “extremely disappointing.”
But, she added, she still hopes people will take the time to visit the cairn in front of the city’s arts centre to pay their respects, or observe their own two minutes of silence at 11 a.m.
Port Coquitlam legion branch 133 will also be shut. It was planning to host two gatherings by reservation on Wednesday.
Still, even with legions closed for the stat holiday, there are ways for residents to honour the sacrifices made by Canada’s veterans.
The city of Coquitlam will be lowering flags at city hall and Blue Mountain Park on Nov. 11. It’s also encouraging residents to submit a letter, poem or artwork to firstname.lastname@example.org that will be included in meal deliveries to veterans. Those deliveries, by Meals for Seniors program, will be free for veterans on Tuesday and members of city council will be helping out. Anyone wishing to express their gratitude can sponsor the cost of one or more meals, at $7.50 each, by calling 604-927-4386 to pay by credit card.
As well, messages of remembrance can be emailed to email@example.com. They will be printed out and affixed to trees along Veterans Way in Blue Mountain Park, which has also been decorated with poppies painted in the grass.
And students at Gleneagle secondary school have produced a virtual ceremony that can be viewed at https://www.sd43.bc.ca/school/gleneagle/Pages/default.aspx#/=.
In Port Coquitlam, residents are being urged to cut out and display a poppy that ran in the Nov. 5 issue of the Tri-City News. The poster can also be downloaded at www.portcoquitlam.ca/remember.
— with files from Diane Strandberg