How Quebec held Remembrance Day celebrations under COVID restrictions
Since 1919, Canadians have celebrated Remembrance Day as a way of showing gratitude for those who sacrificed their lives fighting on behalf of Canada.
This year, Remembrance Day (Nov. 11) coincided with the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. But due to COVID-19, the ceremonies originally planned were cancelled, and the poppy campaign severely limited.
The Royal Canadian Legion (RCL) and its branches had to find alternative ways to honour their veterans. Westmount’s Royal Montreal Regiment (RMR), for example, had to think outside the box when it came to selling poppies.
The RMR created the “Poppy by Mail” initiative to raise funds for local organizations while respecting social distancing measures. People could donate to the regiment through their website, poppybymail.ca, and receive their poppies right to their door.
This avoided all social contact, protecting the public and the senior veterans who usually run the poppy campaign.
Service Officer Georges Gohier of the RMR said that they mailed hundreds of envelopes each day since the start of the campaign.
“I basically worked on about 100 some odd envelopes myself,” said Gohier, who served 20 years with the branch.
Gohier explained that the initiative was run entirely by volunteers. From active members to veterans, and of course, their families.
“It’s all hands on deck,” said Gohier. And what do volunteers need? “[Just] some available time and a little bit of dexterity to fold the envelopes,” he said chuckling.
The bright red poppy is an iconic symbol of Canada’s Remembrance Day and is worn in the weeks leading up to the federal holiday out of respect to those who fought and are still fighting for Canada.
In addition to the alternative poppy fundraising, Montrealers paid respect to their veterans through the annual Remembrance Day Ceremony. Only this year everything was virtual.
Because regions in red and orange zones are prohibited from having large gatherings, and the average age of Quebec’s veterans is 71 years old, the Quebec Command cancelled all mass ceremonies this year.
There were small ceremonies held around the island for each branch as well as the main ceremony at Place du Canada, but spectators were discouraged from attending.
How did we celebrate from home?
The National Remembrance Ceremony held in Ottawa was live streamed on the RCL’s Facebook page at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11.
But even if you missed the ceremony online, Gohier said the most important thing to do was to, “put down whatever you’re doing and take a few minutes to think of the people who’ve passed. Not just the soldiers, but even civilians who were just born and raised living in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Photo by Matilda Cerone