Edmonton Remembrance Day ceremonies scaled back amid COVID-19

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COVID-19 gathering restrictions continue to affect the way we mark holidays. As one veteran was being honoured today, Nicole Stillger shows us what's being planned for this year's Remembrance Day – Oct 21, 2020

While it’s usually a time for people to come together and honour those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice defending their country, Remembrance Day will look much different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A number of ceremonies are typically held throughout Edmonton to mark Nov. 11. However, because large gatherings are restricted, many of the ceremonies have either been cancelled or largely scaled back.

One of the city’s largest Remembrance Day ceremonies will not go ahead as planned. This year, five local legions were set to take over the ceremony at the Butterdome, but Kingsway Legion president Ron Wills said the ceremony will be cancelled this year due to the pandemic. Instead, the local legions will put on smaller, by-invitation-only ceremonies for legion members only.

The ceremony typically held at City Hall will also be a bit different this year. Plans are underway to host an outdoor Remembrance Day event, but the public will not be invited to attend in person. Instead, the City of Edmonton will live stream the event online. Details of the event are set to be released closer to Remembrance Day.

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Read more: Historic instrument from WWI to be played in Edmonton for Remembrance Day

The ceremony at the Beverly Memorial Cenotaph, which typically sees about 500 people come from all across Canada to take part, will go ahead but on an invite-only basis.

“Normally we do a church gathering,” said Joe Luce, chairman of the Beverly Memorial Cenotaph Committee. “Then we do a parade from the church, which is about a kilometre away, down to the cenotaph and then at the cenotaph we do the ceremony.”

However, this year the church ceremony has been cancelled and the outdoor ceremony will be much smaller that usual.

“This year, the city is planning on creating a bubble for the event,” Luce explained. “Only 100 invited guests are allowed to come in.”

Read more: Unity emphasized by attendees at Edmonton Remembrance Day ceremonies

Luce said they are trying to put on the best ceremony they can, given it’s a particularly memorable year.

“This will be the 100th ceremony at the Beverly Cenotaph,” he said.

“With (the ceremony) being smaller, we’re trying to make big things happen. We’ve been in touch with One Wing Command in Winnipeg which provides the fly-bys. They are encouraged to send us a fly-by with planes — CF-18s or Griffon helicopters — whatever is possible. We’re going to find out what they’re going to provide soon.”

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Those who are not invited are encouraged to watch the ceremony live on the Beverly Memorial Cenotaph’s Facebook page.

Restrictions on public gatherings

Public health guidelines are available on Alberta Health’s website for organizers planning Remembrance Day events.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health stressed that while it is an important date to mark and remember, she urged people to do so in a safe manner.

“The guidance that we have with respect to gatherings, both indoor and outdoor, would apply to any type of gathering, whether that’s Remembrance Day or anything else,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw said last Friday.

“I would encourage organizers of those events to have a look at the gathering guidance and to make sure that basics, such as screening people who are coming, to make sure that they are not symptomatic, to make sure that they’re not close contacts and making sure that people are distance, making sure that if there’s any chance that they may not be able to maintain distance at all times, that their masks are worn.

“Those are the basics that would apply to any gathering.”

Click to play video 'COVID-19 pandemic impacts Remembrance Day services' COVID-19 pandemic impacts Remembrance Day services
COVID-19 pandemic impacts Remembrance Day services – Oct 10, 2020