Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows have honoured war veterans with pride in recent years. Crowds of thousands come to the cenotaphs in each community for the parade, the mournful bagpipes, the Fraser Blues flying overhead, the laying of the wreaths, and the moment of silence.
This year on Nov. 11, those thousands of spectators are being asked to “remember in place.” With COVID-19 cases reaching record numbers in the province, the Royal Canadian Legion and city officials have decided to take the livestreamed ceremonies online.
“We’re encouraging our members to remember at home,” said Branch 88 President Al Casswell. “Pick up the phone and phone somebody. We can’t congregate like in years past.”
Both cities are asking the public to not gather at their cenotaphs.
“There will be big changes to this year’s Remembrance Day services due to COVID-19. We were all hoping that things would change, but that hasn’t happened,” said the Branch 88 newsletter. “As a result, the executive have decided to follow Dominion guidelines for a very scaled-back service.”
Casswell explained there will be no parades at either cenotaph this year. Members are being asked to take their wreaths to the cenotaph throughout the day on Nov. 11, to pay their respects to family and friends who have sacrificed.
Both cities will be streaming shortened versions of their annual Remembrance Day services.
Maple Ridge will be holding a broadcasted commemoration, in front of the Legion, with a small group of invited guests only. The Maple Ridge Legion Branch’s livestream ceremony will begin at 10:45 a.m. on Nov. 11. For links see legion88.com or facebook.com/royalcanadianlegion88
The city is asking residents to show their support to veterans by posting a poppy in a front window of their residence (see The News Nov. 5, page 16), and post a photo to social media channels using #RememberInPlace and/or #PoppyInTheWindow.
The Pitt Meadows service will also be livestreamed on the city’s Facebook page on Nov. 11 beginning at 10:45 a.m.
“For those of us whose family has served in the military, the annual Remembrance Day events hold a deep personal meaning,” said Mayor Mike Morden in a statement. “The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we mark important events in our lives and on Nov. 11, we will come together virtually to honour those who serve, and those who gave their lives to preserve the democracy we enjoy today.
“Many thanks to the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 88 for all they do each and every day in the service of veterans, particularly on Remembrance Day. This year, unfortunately, cannot be the same. With that in mind, on what has always been a very sober day, I am truly honoured to bring with me the spirit of thousands of our fellow citizens who normally gather around the Cenotaph to pay tribute to our heroes.”
Groups and families from Pitt Meadows who have a wreath to lay at the cenotaph are asked to do so before 10 a.m. on Nov. 11, and to maintain social distancing.
There has already been a small wreath-laying ceremony with Pitt Meadows officials in advance of Remembrance Day.
There will be no Remembrance Day ceremony at Whonnock Community Centre this year, nor a virtual service. Organizers plan to bring it back as soon as the pandemic is over.
Casswell asks that people who lay wreaths be responsible for picking the up on Nov. 12.
He is confident crowds of people will return to mark Nov. 11 at the cenotaph ceremonies once they are held again, and it will again be a big community gathering.
“I’m sure it will. It’s a very important day to a lot of families.”