Thousands attend Remembrance Day ceremony at B.C. legislature in Victoria

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VICTORIA — A larger than expected crowded turned out for a Remembrance Day ceremony at the cenotaph outside British Columbia's legislature in Victoria on Thursday.

Rev. Andrew Gates, who officiated over the ceremony, remarked on the surprising size of the crowd, saying attendance estimates for the ceremony that were likely influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic were obviously much too low.

A B.C. legislature official estimated that almost 3,000 people attended the hour-long ceremony, which ended just as the showers erupted into a pelting downpour.

"We only made 200 programs, thinking there would be maybe 50 people here," said Gates. "It's wonderful to see you here."

Barely 50 people attended last year's Victoria ceremony, which was conducted under strict physical distancing protocols due as COVID-19 increased.

Some wore masks at Thursday's outdoor ceremony, while many stayed at safe distances from others.

Gates referred to the pandemic in his benediction, saying COVID-19 was causing people to grieve for lost loved ones, just as the Spanish Flu did during the First World War.

"This pandemic is different though no less deadly, but not much else has changed over the past 100 years," he said. "We still grieve those who are missing, the children and those who have died. Even our prayers are much the same, and we say them year after year after year."

Gerald Hatton said he walked halfway across the city to attend his first Remembrance Day ceremony in Victoria after recently moving from Toronto.

"I thought it was very tasteful," said Hatton, whose father and grandfather both served in the Canada's military. "There was not a lot of hoopla and not a lot of beating of the chest."

Carolyn McRae said she came from nearby Sidney to attend the ceremony.

She said both her father and grandfather served in Canada's military.

"My dad was in the navy here during the war and that's where he met my mom," McRae said. "So, I always think about him."

The ceremony in Victoria was one of many held in communities across the province as thousands came out to honour their veterans.

Gates urged people to live life deeply by standing up against oppression and working for justice.

He said people can make change and bring peace despite the ongoing discomforts and conflicts in the world.

"And may God bless you with foolishness," said Gates. "The foolishness to think that you can make a difference in the world, so that you will do the things which others tell you cannot be done," he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 11, 2021.

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

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