Officials in the Kingston region say the usual pomp and ceremony will give way to what they call private ceremonies instead. From Brockville to Belleville and all points in between, Remembrance Week and more specifically Remembrance Day will look a lot different this year according to Stephen Shirk.
“We’re going to have a ceremony — that’s important and we will make it happen.”
Shirk is the chair of the Veterans Council that puts on the annual ceremony in Belleville. He says names like Hunt, Hunter and Jones, Parks, Pauley and Pearce will continue to be remembered but not in the usual way, without the overflowing crowd that usually populate Belleville’s Memorial Park on Veterans Way.
“We’re treating it as a private function instead of a spectator function at the request of the city, to make sure we stay within the restrictions. The last I heard it was 50 people, so that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to have a taped-off area around the immediate area of the cenotaph.”
Actually, the maximum number of people for an outdoor gathering is 25. Following the initial reopening of coronavirus lockdowns in the spring which saw indoor gatherings limited to 50 and outdoor events held to 100, the Ontario government tightened restrictions again Sept. 19, lowering indoor gathering sizes to 10 and outdoor to 25.
Playing by the COVID-19 rules and regulations is something everyone needs to get used to. The bottom line according to Shirk — it isn’t the same old, same old.
“This year — the military is not allowed to attend — we’re hoping they can give us some sentries for the cenotaph behind me, but the bulk of the military can not attend. The cadet corps are not allowed to attend so there’s a lot of things that we’d normally be doing that we can’t do this year.”
A ceremony will also be held in Gananoque. Ray Foster, president of Royal Canadian Legion Branch 92, says it’s been a real test for himself as well as his executive committee to decide how best to proceed. He says the large crowds that usually gather at the memorial in front of Gananoque Town Hall just won’t happen, at least not this year.
“They’ll be about seven of us from the legion at the ceremony — the public is encouraged not to attend. We can’t stop them from attending but we encourage them to stay home — watch on TV.”
Foster hopes this is a one-off and things will return to normal next year.