‘The wars didn’t stop for anything, so we shouldn’t either’: Niagara Legions won’t let pandemic cancel Remembrance Day

·4 min read

Remembrance Day ceremonies will look a little different this year across Niagara, but local Legions won’t let a pandemic cancel a day meant to honour the more than two million Canadians who have served throughout our nation's history, and the more than 118,000 people who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

On a day where hundreds typically gather around their local cenotaph, this Nov. 11, most legions will be hosting smaller socially distanced ceremonies, some by invite only.

Barbara Earle, public relations officer, Royal Canadian Legion Branch 24 in St. Catharines said they will still hold a limited ceremony, but it will be invite-only with no parade.

“In keeping with COVID regulations, there is a need to discourage the general public from attending the ceremony at Memorial Park. We are going to have a maximum participants of about 25, and they will be spaced apart.”

Earle said the St. Catharines ceremony will be held on Nov. 11 beginning at 10:30 a.m. and will also be livestreamed through Cogeco and the City of St. Catharines' Facebook page.

Branch 17 will also have a ceremony held at the cenotaph at Memorial Park in Thorold.

Poppy chair and first vice-president for Branch 17, Glenn Kempson, said the ceremony will be open to the public, but those attending will have to view from a distance.

“The public can come, but obviously they are going to have to distance in the park. We will be limiting our attendance around the cenotaph.

“The wars didn’t stop for anything, so we shouldn’t either.”

In Niagara-on-the-Lake, Branch 124 will also have a change in its usual Remembrance Day ceremony this year.

Al Howse, poppy co-chair for the Branch, said there will be only one ceremony in the town, as opposed to two, without the traditional ceremony at the old town cenotaph.

“It will be held on Nov. 11 at 11 a.m. and it will be at the Legion. We are discouraging a crowd, unfortunately, but we will be livestreaming through our Facebook page, so people can still watch.”

In Grimsby, Branch 127 will be holding its ceremony in its usual location at the cenotaph, but in a much more limited capacity without the usual cadets or schools attending.

Barry Stark, president of Branch 127, said members of the public looking to attend the ceremony should inform the Legion ahead of time.

“What this year's ceremony is going to be is basically members only, anyone in a Legion uniform, and we are looking at a possibility of about 30. Any other crowds will have to have to ask us to come.”

Stark adds there will be no ceremony in Jordan this year either.

All Legions across the region are also asking for a limited number of representatives from each organization.

Nancy McNair, vice-president of Legion 612 in Beamsville, said its ceremony on Remembrance Day this year will be a small gathering without the usual presence from local police and first responders.

“There will be no fire department or police. It is really just invited guests at the cenotaph, maybe 12 or 15 people.”

Municipalities in Niagara's south end have also seen changes to how things are normally done. Branch 230 in Ridgeway will have a closed ceremony limited to 50 VIPs and dignitaries but the flyover of vintage warplanes will still be happening as usual.

Fort Erie's Branch 71 has moved its ceremony to the cenotaph located at the Legion on Garrison Road and will see limitations in numbers.

Niagara Falls' Branch 479 will host a ceremony on Nov. 11 at 11 a.m. in front of the branch at 5603 Spring St., while the Chippawa Legion will host a scaled-back ceremony on Sunday, Nov. 8, at 1 p.m. at the cenotaph in front of the branch at 3860 Legion St.

The city's annual services, usually held at the Gale Centre and at an arena in Chippawa, will be combined into a small, outdoor ceremony with a limited number of pre-screened participants. It will also be livestreamed on YouTube on Nov. 11 starting at 10:45 a.m.

In Fonthill, Branch 613 will hold a small outdoor ceremony primarily for veterans and Legion members. Students from Niagara College will be livestreaming the event for those who can't make it.

Welland's annual ceremony at Chippawa Park has been cancelled. A small, private ceremony will be held at the branch for Legion members and some veterans and organizers have encouraged everyone else to still take two minutes at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11 to "privately pay quiet tribute to all the veterans and the other men and women who sacrificed for us and still continue to do so in so many different ways."

With files by Lindsay Smith, Paul Forsyth and Richard Hutton.

Bryan Levesque, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grimsby Lincoln News