In-person Remembrance Day ceremonies have been cancelled this year, but local officials are still encouraging the public to take time to mark the occasion.
“Although we might not be able to gather in-person to pay our respects, it still is just as important to take those two minutes of silence at 11 a.m. Because, if anything, we can all rest assured that we're all taking that moment of silence together at that time of day,” said Shawn McKinlay, president of the Royal Canadian Legion Beaver Valley Branch 281.
This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, residents are being discouraged from attending the local cenotaph that, in previous years, would have been the center of a ceremony with an orchestra, pipe band and nearly 40 troops to pay tribute to the fallen.
“It will be very different to not be at the cenotaph this year. I don’t recall missing a Remembrance Day ceremony since I was very young,” said the Town of the Blue Mountains (TBM) Deputy Mayor, Rob Potter.
“Fortunately, the partnership between the town, the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 281, and the Blue Mountains Public Library (BMPL) has allowed us to overcome the challenge of the COVID pandemic to ensure that everyone in our community can be part of the ceremonies of Remembrance at both local cenotaphs,” he continued.
On Wednesday, Nov. 11, both the Clarksburg and Ravenna Remembrance Day ceremonies will be live-streamed on the BMPL YouTube Channel as well as the town website.
“As we are all trying to find our way through these important events during the pandemic, such as Remembrance Day, we felt the best way to support the Legion and assist by broadcasting the ceremonies and keeping community involvement virtual,” said Sabrina Saunders, CEO of the BMPL.
McKinlay says this year’s ceremony will be small and somewhat “barebones” as organizers have kept numbers low to avoid any disruption in the ceremony if further COVID restrictions were put in place.
This year’s ceremony will consist of little movement, no parade, pipe band or orchestra, and commemorative wreaths will be placed at both cenotaphs in advance of the ceremonies.
McKinlay says a silver lining to the pandemic restrictions is that the event is helping the legion to elevate its ceremonies into the future.
“For us at Beaver Valley 281, we're stepping into the new age of live-streaming and social media,” he said. “We're excited to give this our first try.”
Up until now, the local legion has never live-streamed an event or ceremony but McKinley says it will certainly be something they hope to incorporate into future events.
"This is definitely a piece of our program that we're going to keep from now on, regardless of COVID,” he said.
In addition to the live ceremony, town officials also suggest taking time to visit the Blue Mountains Museum and Archives’ Our Military Heritage online resource, which was launched in late-September.
“We need to remember that heritage is about people. Old buildings and artifacts don’t mean much unless there is a human story to make them important. That’s never as true as it is when we’re looking at the people who have served in our military, either in war or in peacekeeping. When you see the Our Military Heritage exhibit, you see people – local people – and, in many cases, their descendants are still here. It is our way to remember them,” Potter said.
Andrea Wilson, curator at the Blue Mountains’ Museum says the exhibit is a collaborative space where individuals can upload their own memories, images, and documents on local military history.
“Our Military History demonstrates the importance of freedom and peace to the TBM through their gift of service to the country and the gift of support and recognition that the community gave to those who served,” Wilson said.
She adds that content within the military exhibit has been increasing every week with new uploads.
“We have a lot of digitized material to bring forward to this growing site, from new donations to the exhibit and from the museum collection itself. This resource has been shared with the local schools as well for their use, especially during this month,” Wilson said.
The online exhibit offers details on the people of the TBM in the 19th century, the First World War, the Second World War, the Korean War, peacekeeping, and military heritage resources.
The Remembrance Day ceremonies being conducted by the Beaver Valley Legion Branch 281 will be held on Wednesday, with the first ceremony taking place at the 229 Bruce Street Cenotaph beginning at 11 a.m and the second ceremony at the Ravenna Cenotaph beginning at 1 p.m.
Both ceremonies will be live-streamed and a recording of the events will be made available on the Beaver Valley Branch 281 YouTube Chanel.
“Next year, hopefully, we'll be back on track so we can all gather together again,” McKinlay added.
Jennifer Golletz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca