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Wingham Remembrance Day ceremony closed to the public

This year’s Remembrance Day ceremony, with COVID-19 restrictions, will be one like no other as the ceremony will be closed to the public. (Kelsey Bent Photo)

NORTH HURON – Legion Branch 180 in Wingham says this year’s Remembrance Day ceremony, with COVID-19 restrictions, will be one like no other that has been experienced in this lifetime.

Perhaps the biggest change is that the ceremony will be closed to the public, with residents actually discouraged from attending on Nov. 11.

The local Legion said they will be attempting to stream the ceremony using Facebook Live, so that people can still, in a way, pay their respects at their local cenotaph.

The Wingham Legion is planning to have approximately 10 members present at the cenotaph, including the branch president, poppy chair, flag party, emcee and the branch padre.

The wreaths will be placed in advance and the names of the donors will be read instead of them actually placing the wreath thus eliminating close contact of members and public. Depending on weather the wreaths will be on display after the ceremony for multiple days for the public to see on their own time.

The names of the fallen will be read, two minutes of silence and the Last Post will be observed the same as in other years.

“There is no way we can control the public, but we hope that anyone who stops to observe will comply with physical distancing measures,” Legion Branch 180 President Tim Poole said.

Cadets and members of the military have also been asked to not attend.

“It’s not just cadets that are not allowed; military are not permitted to show up in uniform, and no veterans,” Poole said.

Poole estimated that roughly 10 veterans will not be in attendance.

“We are asking our veterans, especially our older veterans, to stay at home and stay safe,” Jim Saint, second vice president and poppy chair, said.

Other community ceremonies

In past years, the Wingham Legion have held a ceremony at Braemar Retirement Centre and Nursing Home.

“That is something that will definitely not happen this year,” Poole said. “That is really unfortunate because the residents really look forward to it.”

A nursing home recreation staff member said staff are planning to watch a virtual ceremony with residents, and they have a cross and poppies for residents to use if they wish to participate.

The Wingham Legion has also been a part of the Remembrance Day ceremony at F.E. Madill Secondary School.

“We are encouraged to not have visitors into the school but to conduct virtual meetings,” F.E.Madill Principal Deanne Deelstra wrote in an email. “Our students will be commemorating Remembrance Day by connecting to an online event in each of their classes.”

The school is calling their event the Memory Project and will feature a short address, music and poems from veteran speakers as well as a moment of silence at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11.

Poole said at the very least, all the local schools laid wreaths in past ceremonies, and added that often students and teachers from Maitland River Elementary School (MRES) and Sacred Heart Separate School would walk down to the cenotaph for the ceremony.

“It will look a bit different this year, but we will still be mindful of honouring those who made the ultimate sacrifice,” Kim Albers, MRES teacher said in an email.

She explained, this year classes will be doing a virtual Remembrance Day ceremony by watching a slideshow of all of the things the school has put together (artwork, poems, choral reading, etc.).

“Classes will still partake in their own Remembrance Day art projects, writing tasks and read alouds that shed light on the sacrifices these men and women made to provide freedom to so many,” Albers said.

The school is planning to play the slideshow at the same time in each class, then have a moment of silence at exactly 11 a.m. across the entire school.

“COVID has changed a lot of things, but it has not changed how we feel about reflecting on and honouring the brave soldiers who fought for our freedom; hence we will partake in Remembrance Day from the safety of our own classrooms,” Albers wrote.

A message from Zone Commander

These event specifications are not limited to the Wingham ceremony. Zone Commander Dennis Schmidt said in an email that all Remembrance Day ceremonies, “should be scaled down.”

“The smaller you make it the better you will be able to manage,” he wrote. “The ceremony should be closed to the public and the public should not be invited.”

Schmidt actually went as far as asking local Legions to consider using only low amplification to attract less attention and deter people from attending in person.

Instead Legions across Zone C – which includes legions in Bruce, Huron, Grey, Perth counties as well as some in Waterloo Region – are being asked to make the ceremony available online.

Cenotaph ceremonies across the zone will not include parades, including colour party which will consist of a maximum of six flags. Volunteers will be in place to monitor site perimeter and encourage anyone reluctant to leave to maintain distance and wear a mask, and collect contact details.

“The only issue I have with what the Legion (commander) has sent down is, and we will have difficulty with but we will work on it, is were not allowed to exceed the number of people in attendance, which I believe is 25 right now,” Poole admitted.

He added that they will have eight to 10 people running the ceremony, so it will be difficult.

“How can we control if someone walking up the street stops?” he asked.

Council’s comments

North Huron Deputy Reeve Trevor Seip said it is important that the community figure out a way to hold these types of events, while respecting the Public Health guidelines.

“I hate the fact that we have to talk about not having these types of events that are near and dear to people’s hearts, but the problem is if we don’t do this, there is a greater risk to public safety,” Seip said.

Coun. Chris Palmer said it will be hard for people to not attend.

“It’s a crying shame that is has come to this,” Palmer said. “It’s going to be hard to keep people away because so many of them have relatives that have fallen … My heart goes out to those folks. I will say that I don’t like it, but those are the rules of today.”

North Huron Reeve Bernie Bailey expressed agreement with councillors and said, “It is the fallen that have given us the freedom that we have now, and we should never forget that.”