B.C. prepares for a ‘minimalist’ Remembrance Day amid COVID-19 concerns

© Simon Little / Global News A young girl lays flowers at the cenotaph in Vancouver's Victory Square on Remembrance Day.

When the Last Post sounds at Victory Square in Vancouver on Nov. 11, this year it will be to a nearly empty park.

There will be no crowd of thousands, there will be no veterans or cadets parading and there will be fewer wreaths laid.

But British Columbians, spread apart by the COVID-19 pandemic, will still honour the sacrifices of those who’ve come before them, because remembering is “built into our DNA,” according to Cam Cathcart, director of ceremonies for the Victory Square Remembrance Day event.

Read more: Remembrance Day planners scrambling as coronavirus limits traditional ceremonies

“That’s very key, no matter what happens whether it’s COVID-19 or something else that’s interfering with our lives,” he told Global News on Saturday.

Cathcart said the 2020 event will be “minimalist,” noting that many veterans, as seniors, are particularly susceptible to the virus.

He’s encouraging people to stay home and observe the ceremonies on TV or online, to remember their own family’s contribution or to familiarize themselves with the stories of others in place of the usual event.

“One of the things we’ve always seen at Victory Square — thousands of people turn out and they’re all generations, from the very very young the old,” he said.

“It’s going to be very difficult.”

Read more: Legion distributes about 20 million poppies a year to Canadians

The traditional Remembrance Day ceremonies held province-wide each year won’t be the only thing different about this year.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the way veterans’ organizations are fundraising by upsetting plans for poppy distribution.

Vancouver Poppy Fund administrator Jim Howard said the organization usually raises about $350,000 per year, adding he’s concerned about the effects of the pandemic.

“I would think we are going to see a difference,” he said.

“I’m sort of hoping that the folks that want to be there will go into a branch to make a donation, or they’ll write a letter and include a cheque.”

Because the pandemic, Cub Scouts and cadets won’t be out selling poppies this year, leaving the organization reliant on adult volunteers.

They’ll be armed with masks, and doing their best to maintain two metres of distance, Howard said.

The group has directly reached out vendors who have accepted poppy trays in the past to see if they’ll take one this year.

Read more: Thousands gather in Vancouver to honour Canada’s veterans for Remembrance Day

The provincial command is also working on a website and in discussions with the BC Liquor Stores to potentially collect donations directly, he said.

The poppy fund will never solicit donations by phone and that anyone who claims to be doing so is committing fraud, he added.

While there is a sense of disappointment among veterans this year, Cathcart said, most people are understanding and accept that global events can throw a curveball at the best laid plans.

And he’s already looking ahead to next year.

“I have to be optimistic that by this time next year we’ll have come through this terrible pandemic,” he said

“Then we will plan for a larger ceremony.”

Global News