A different day

The Governor General of Canada Julie Payette lays down a wreath at the National War Memorial in Ottawa for Remembrance Day last November.
Adam Tindal

Remembrance Day looks different this year, but it is no less meaningful.

Pandemic restrictions have had an enormous impact on The Royal Canadian Legion nationwide. Since closing their doors in March, branch social activities—darts, trivia nights, award presentations, wedding receptions—have stopped. By September, however, some tentative and firmly restricted branch reopenings were underway.

The halls may have been empty but the Legion’s core work of supporting veterans, their families and communities continued. In many cases, inspiring COVID-19 workarounds were found so as to keep up the good works.

Two of the most visible, important and symbolic Legion activities—nationally and locally—are the poppy campaign and Remembrance Day ceremonies. Both are different this time. Just how different depends on the level of COVID restrictions in place.

On Aug. 28, Dominion Command issued all-branch directives to protect the health and safety of volunteers and the public during this year’s remembrance period. The objective is to comply with provincial and municipal emergency orders, protect people who are at higher risk, and maintain the poppy campaign and remembrance ceremonies. To read those directives and for any subsequent updates to them, contact your local branch.

The day has held one solemn purpose.

This is the most important time of year for the Legion, when it collects most of its donations to the poppy fund, which pays for so many important veteran-support services.

Even with pandemic restrictions in place, most of us still have to go out for groceries and other supplies. When you do, make a point of dropping your donation into a poppy box. There may or may not be a Legion volunteer standing by to thank you from a safe social distance, but your contribution will be appreciated nonetheless. Or even simpler: donate online at www.legion.ca/donations.

In 1919, King George V inaugurated Armistice Day to mark the moment when First World War hostilities ended—at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. Every year since, the day has held one solemn purpose: to remember and honour those who died in the line of duty.

Veterans, military members, Legion members, dignitaries, schoolchildren, parents, grandparents—people of all generations and walks of life—turn out by the thousands to demonstrate gratitude for this sacrifice.

Whether or not scaled-back Legion-conducted remembrance ceremonies take place in your community this Nov. 11, remember that many veterans are in the demographic most affected by the pandemic. The last thing they should do right now is gather in excessive numbers in close proximity.

But no matter how we honour them—ceremonially or through a socially distant but personal gesture—we will remember them.