Remembrance Day is a solemn occasion, and public observances of it will be more subdued this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Royal Canadian Legion branches and communities across the region will not be ignoring the sacrifices of veterans. Branch 472 in Hawkesbury normally organizes ceremonies at the cenotaphs in Hawkesbury, Vankleek Hill, L’Orignal, and Alfred. This year, ceremonies will not take place in those communities but wreaths honouring veterans will still be placed at each cenotaph on Remembrance Day.
The club room at the legion branch in Hawkesbury will be open for members only for veterans to be welcomed and honoured. All COVID-19-related rules for indoor gatherings will be followed.
According to Dave Hrynkiw, President of Royal Canadian Legion Branch 423 in Alexandria, the directions for diminished Remembrance Day activities came from Legion Dominion Command in Ottawa.
The Alexandria branch usually organizes the cenotaph ceremonies in Alexandria, St-Isidore, Maxville, and Apple Hill. Wreaths will still be placed at the cenotaphs on Remembrance Day with brief speeches, but crowds are strongly discouraged and there will be no reception on November 11 at the branch in Alexandria. There will be no parades in any of the communities.
“The last thing we need is one of seniors getting sick,” said Hrynkiw.
He added that there are still some elderly World War II veterans in the community whom he wants to protect.
“There are a lot of restrictions this year,” said President Cathy Langille of Royal Canadian Legion Branch 70 in Lachute.
Under the direction of the Québec Provincial Command, ceremonies at cenotaphs are restricted to branch executive members placing wreaths and the public is discouraged from gathering.
“We can’t take the chance of spreading the virus or becoming a red zone,” said Langille, noting that the MRC d’Argenteuil is an orange zone under Québec’s COVID-19 alert system but is bordered by red zones to the east.
Langille said that she does not want to have to cancel any recognition of Remembrance Day but that it could happen if Argenteuil becomes a red zone before November 11. She said that the day is too important to ignore.
Brownsburg Branch 71 President Sheila Parks said that there are no specific plans for ceremonies in the community either. Wreaths will be quietly placed at the cenotaph and spectators are discouraged.
Parks and Langille both said that fewer wreaths were purchased this year.
Cadets usually participate in local Remembrance Day ceremonies, but that will not be happening this year either.
Royal Canadian Legion Laurentian District 12 Commandant Trevor Holmes said that members of the prominent Royal 22e régiment have participated in the Brownsburg ceremony in the past, but they will not be attending this Remembrance Day either.
“We’ve got nobody this year,” he said.
Holmes said that the restrictions are part of adapting to life during the pandemic.
“You learn to live with these things,” said Holmes.