Pandemic protocols will once again restrict public attendance at the cenotaph for the annual Nov. 11 wreath-laying ceremony. (Houston Today photo)

Pandemic forces Remembrance Day services on line once again

But local Legion branch will live stream service, laying of wreaths

For the second year in a row, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the Pleasant Valley Branch 249 of the Royal Canadian Legion to go online to note Remembrance Day.

It will have a service at the Legion building 10 a.m. Nov. 11 but attendance will be restricted to the Legion’s colour party and a few key members.

Following the service, the colour party will make its way to the cenotaph at Steelhead Park where the 11 a.m. moment of silence, the Last Post and the laying of wreaths will be observed.

Legion executive secretary Joanne Woodbeck said the legion had hoped this year would be different and that there could be more public involvement at the legion and at the cenotaph.

But renewed provincial public health orders in mid-October put limits on public gatherings.

Those limits are for the area of northern B.C. east of Kitwanga extending out past Prince George and into the northeast and were put in place following high numbers of COVID-19 cases in areas where vaccination rates were far behind the remainder of the province.

“So for us this is year two,” said Woodbeck of the restricted nature of Nov. 11.

Traditionally the wreaths are laid by local organizations and individuals who purchased them but because of restrictions, they will be laid instead by members of the colour party.

Because the cenotaph is outside and is in a public setting the legion cannot prevent people from gathering at a COVID-safe distance but it is not encouraging attendance either.

And even though restrictions prevent public involvement, Woodbeck said both the service and the cenotaph portion will be live-streamed via the legion’s Facebook page.

That live-streaming is being handled by local photographer and videographer Simon Jeffery.

“He’s been an amazing help to us,” said Woodbeck of Jeffery.

Gary Timms is the Sergeant of Arms and will lead the colour party and it consists of branch president Don Woodbeck, past president Ambrose Kelly, vice president Brian Timms, ladies auxiliary representative Erna McCaw and cadet commander Margaret Murphy.

The ceremony at the branch will involve a reading of the names of veterans by Margaret Murphy and the Rev. Mike McIntyre will provide the sermon.

Following the ceremony at the branch, the colour party will make its way to the cenotaph at approximately five minutes to 11 a.m.

At the cenotaph, the Last Post will sound followed by the traditional two minutes of silence.

And with the public not allowed to attend, wreaths will be laid and Dorrance Murphy, the master of ceremonies, will read out the list of those who purchased the wreaths.

Leading up to Nov. 11, poppies will be for sale at selected locations around the community and those who wish to buy a wreath can contact the Legion branch at 250-845-7789 or Woodbeck at 250-845-4151.

On Facebook, the Legion can be found at Houston Legion, Pleasant Valley Branch #249

The pandemic has also resulted in the cancelling of the traditional participation of the Legion at school assemblies held to note Remembrance Day.

But the Legion’s annual poster, essay, poem and video contest is still being held, noted Woodbeck.

There are four categories — posters for Grades 1 to 12, an essay for Grades 4 to 12, a poem for Grades 4 to 12 and a video opportunity for Grades 5 to 12.

Submissions have to be handed into the Legion by Nov. 15.

More information is available at https://www.legionbcyukon.ca/what-we-do/youth-and-remembrance