Every year, thousands of people file gather at cenotaphs across Vancouver Island to pay their respects on Remembrance Day. But this year, that won’t be the case.
COVID-19 has forced Royal Canadian Legions to cancel their annual events and to reduce ceremony attendance to less than 50 people.
“We have 1,377 paid-up members and I would only be allowed 47. Fifty people includes staff, and I just cant do that. We’ve got 20 World War Two vets and I wouldn’t in all consciousness be able to say you can’t come in.” said Patti Stockton, president the Trafalgar/Propatria Branch 292 in Victoria.
At the Langford branch 292, they’ve also had to make the tough decision to suspend operations on Wednesday.
“When I made the decision that our legion was not going to be open on Remembrance Day it was hard. I had veterans come to me and basically say they’ve never missed a Remembrance Day in their lives and that hurt,” said Legion President Norman Scott.
Langford’s ceremony usually has around 1,000 people in attendance, but this year, there will be 25, and all veterans and seniors are asked to stay away for safety reasons.
“We suggest that they stay home, turn the TV and or computer on and watch it virtually through Facebook and any other means that it’s available,” said Scott.
Second World War veteran Ray Rasmussen usually spends the day with family and fellow veterans but will be forced to remain at home. However, that won’t stop him from reflecting and paying respects to those who didn’t get through the battles alive.
“It’s the unnecessary deaths of thousands of young fellows and the careless loss of crews to negligence,” said Rasmussen.
It’s a humbling reminder that even though we’re in the middle of a global health crisis, it’s vital that we continue to pay respects to those who fought for our freedom.
“Veterans like Ray from the Second World War and the Korean War, their numbers are dwindling. The last two years we’ve lost the last of our First World War members and that history will be lost and once we lose that history, we are damned to repeat it,” said Royal Canadian Navy member Andrew Britton.
Staring at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, CHEK will have coverage from smaller ceremonies across the Island.