Several hundred people showed up for the Remembrance Day ceremony at the Canada Games Centre in Whitehorse on Nov. 11, 2018. Possibilities for 2020 ceremonies include smaller gatherings and live streams. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Whitehorse Legion plans for a very different Remembrance Day

Small ceremonies could be complemented by virtual events

The large ceremonies that mark Remembrance Day in the Yukon will not happen this year, but the Whitehorse Legion is ensuring Yukoners can mark the day that honours the nation’s veterans and those serving in the military.

“Something is going to happen,” Joe Mewett, president of the Whitehorse branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, said in an Oct. 6 interview. “We’re the military, we adapt.”

In a typical year, just ahead of Nov. 11, veterans would visit local schools to be part of their Remembrance Day assemblies. Then on Nov. 11, communities throughout the territory typically have large ceremonies to mark the day with wreaths laid by families, community groups, governments and others. At 11 a.m. a moment of silence is observed.

In Whitehorse that ceremony happens inside the flexihall of the Canada Games Centre, drawing a crowd in the hundreds. Following the ceremony, there’s typically a large get together at the Legion.

This year those large gatherings won’t happen, but Mewett said efforts are underway to host a number of smaller ceremonies leading up to Remembrance Day as well as ensure students continue to learn from veterans.

“We’re still in the planning stages right now,” he said, noting a meeting to work on the plans is set for Oct. 15.

While that work still needs to be done, Mewett said what’s envisioned for the smaller ceremonies is that they would adhere to all COVID-19 protocols for specific organizations. As an example, he noted there might be a ceremony for the RCMP that would be for members. Another ceremony could be held specifically for the Rangers, he said, noting the same could happen for other organizations in the days leading up to Nov. 11.

The smaller ceremonies could be live streamed and recorded with a video featuring parts of each ceremony to be available on Remembrance Day.

Wreaths will be pre-positioned at the city’s cenotaph downtown.

Similarly, Mewett said there’s also a possibility of recording presentations and messages from veterans that could then be sent out to schools for individual classrooms to use as they do in-class Remembrance Day events this year.

The Legion will also be looking at and planning options for long-term care facilities, where Remembrance Day ceremonies and events are a tradition.

Ahead of Remembrance Day as well will be the annual sale of poppy pins. Mewett said poppies will be sold though there will likely be fewer poppy-taggers out in stores with many stores moving to make small poppy trays at cash registers available for those wanting a poppy.

Where there are poppy-taggers, they will have Plexiglas dividers that have been provided by Klondike Business Solutions, Mewett said.

While the global pandemic has made planning for Remembrance Day a challenge, Mewett said following protocols in place is important and the Legion will to work to ensure Remembrance Day is marked in a different way this year.

“We’ve got to try to maintain that social distance,” he said.

Though the Remembrance Day ceremony and other major community events won’t be happening at the Canada Games Centre anytime soon, the city may soon be getting a new floor covering for the flexihall to prepare for the day such events can be hosted there again.

At Whitehorse city council’s Oct. 5 meeting, members were presented with a recommendation that the City of Whitehorse capital budget be amended by adding $29,998, that will come from the Yukon government, to purchase a new floor covering for the flexihall at the Canada Games Centre.

The proposed purchase comes after the city provided the territory with the covering it has to protect the hardwood floor in the flexihall during ceremonies and special events (i.e.: the Remembrance Day ceremony, Spruce Bog craft sale and others).

As Keri Rutherford, the city’s acting manager of recreation and facility services, stated in a report to council: “In March, the Yukon government established a Respiratory Assessment Centre (RAC) at Yukon Convention Centre, and required the use of a protective floor covering.

“The City provided both floor covering and storage racks for this purpose. Some modifications were made to the flooring to ensure it fit the space and as such is no longer usable by the Canada Games Centre.”

After the respiratory assessment centre was closed, the territorial government agreed to replace the floor covering with city administration then getting quotes for the material coming in just under $30,000.

If the budget change is not approved and the purchase doesn’t go ahead, the Canada Games Centre would not be able to host events or ceremonies inside the flexihall, Rutherford said.

City council will vote on the budget change Oct. 13.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

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