MANITOULIN – Manitoulin Island is usually a hot spot for Remembrance Day ceremonies and activities, but due to the pandemic these are pretty much curtailed this year.
Representatives of both Royal Canadian Legion (RCL) branches on Manitoulin, as well as a representative of the Billings Cenotaph Committee, have outlined that their normal plans for Remembrance Day have been limited by COVID-19 this year.
“Obviously, we can’t have our usual Remembrance Day ceremonies this year because of COVID-19,” Rick Nelson, curator of the Old Mill Heritage Centre told the Recorder last week. “Our event is usually held inside (the Park Centre in Kagawong) and usually we have a packed house. But this is not possible this year.”
“And even having ceremonies outside can’t take place because there is a limit to having a maximum of 25 people in an area at a time,” said Mr. Nelson. “When you consider we have representatives of the cadets, cenotaph committee, veterans, and the Billings mayor to deliver a message, not to mention members of the public, it would be too many people.”
“So regrettably, we will not be able to hold our normal Remembrance Day event this year,” said Mr. Nelson. “We are very disappointed, but we can’t risk it, the bulk of our attendees are senior citizens.”
However, Mr. Nelson encouraged people to go to the museum website, KagawongMuseum.ca or the Old Mill Heritage Centre Facebook page and his speech will be delivered on Remembrance Day. “It will be the very same speech I would have delivered if we were having our normal Remembrance Day ceremonies,” he noted. He pointed out that on November 11 members of the cenotaph committee will be laying a couple of wreaths at the cenotaph outside the Park Centre, providing the ‘Last Post’ and having two minutes of silence.
Jim Woods, of RCL Branch 514 in Gore Bay, told the Recorder, “this year’s Remembrance Day event will be very minor. We can’t have a parade, the wreath laying ceremony, or a luncheon afterward.”
“Legions across Canada are being requested to encourage members of the public to take part in a moment of silent at home or walk, and watch the national ceremonies on television this year,” said Mr. Woods. He pointed out all details will be outlined in an advertisement in the Island newspapers.
Roy Eaton, of RCL Branch 177 in Little Current told the Recorder, “we are not going to be able to hold ceremonies at the school (Little Current Public School), the Legion or the Manitoulin Centennial Manor. On November 11, Remembrance Day at 1 pm, we will be holding a brief ceremony, laying wreaths at Soldier Park in Little Current.”
Mr. Eaton noted as well, “we will not be able to distribute, set up tables, or have volunteers set up (near business entrances and other public locations) for the poppy campaign. Instead, poppy boxes will be put in merchant stores and we are hoping people will still pick up a poppy and make a donation to support the Legions and their members.”
Royal Canadian Legion Dominion Command has put out a protocol for Legions to follow in marking November 11 which includes, for the first time ever, spectators will be discouraged from attending in person, due to the limited space and requirement to physically distance.
The head office is also stating there will be reduced colour parties, no parades and wreaths will be pre-positioned rather than laid out by participants.
And when it comes to the poppy campaign, in most locations traditional pop-up boxes will accept coins and donors will receive poppies as usual, but Legion branches will be discouraged from setting up donation tables or placing volunteers at business entrances and other public locations. Members and supporters are encouraged to contact their local branch to review final plans.