There will be a change in location this year for Remembrance Day in Halifax, as the Nova Scotia Legion moves the event from Grand Parade to avoid encroaching on the people living in tents in front of city hall.
“With the concerns of their rights and dignity taken into consideration, as well as the safety of not only the homeless but of the participants of the parade, we made a very difficult decision to move to Sullivan’s Pond,” legion executive director Craig Hood said.
He says the decision was made in conjunction with the city, police services and veteran community discussions.
However, some residents of the tents at Grand Parade wish they had been consulted too.
“We’re Canadian, we value our veterans and there’s nothing we wouldn’t do for them,” Richard Young said. “Saying that they wouldn’t have it here because of our tents, these guys within two seconds told me they would move it out — all of our stuff out of the way.”
Young, who lived in a tent at Grand Parade for several months, says the encampment community is already shrinking — people are now couch surfing and finding new accommodations for the winter.
“It makes us look in the public eye that we don’t care, and that’s not true. I mean, if you had came down for just two seconds to anybody, ‘Can you do this for us?’ We would have done it in a flash,” Young continued.
Hood says the Grand Parade Committee was formed back in August, and there were still doubts and questions around the state of the event space that led to this decision.
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“I don’t have any assurances from anybody that we can create a safe venue. You know, there’s nobody around that can make that promise at this point. That promise needed to made at least two weeks ago, and it wasn’t,”
After speaking with other veterans from the community — including those who are experiencing homelessness themselves — Sullivan’s Pond was decided as the best and safest option.
“We hit that point where we needed to get invitations out, we needed to plan the event and make sure that it is a safe and commemorative event,” Hood said. “We had to make a call.”
That call is supported by HRM and admired by Mayor Mike Savage.
“Part of me is disappointed that we can’t do it here, but I think the point is that you honour the people who made the ultimate sacrifice,” Savage said.
“The location is important, but it’s not as important as the actual intent of the people who are honouring those folks.”
The mayor says he hopes to still have people put wreaths at the Grand Parade if they wish to come and do it.
Savage says the municipality was prepared to talk to the tent community about moving to a civic facility during Remembrance Day events, as he confirms that the province has signed a lease on a building where some of the folks may be able to move for winter.
“We think it will give us an opportunity to move people to a better location than being in a tent here or at Victoria Park,” Savage said. “Hopefully those will be the folks who get the opportunity to move to that new location.”
Nova Scotia Community Services Minister Trevor Boudreau says the province is still going through the process of securing the shelter, but the service provider is ready for when the space is and it will have the capacity to support about 50 people.