Photo Credit: David Clode via Unsplash
Remembrance Day is on November 11 and although St. Catharines residents will be unable to gather in person, there are still many things they can do to pay their respects this year.
Remembrance Day is celebrated in Canada to commemorate the armistice agreement that put an end to World War I in 1919. It was first observed in 1931 and, since then, Remembrance Day has become an opportunity to, “Observe a moment of silence to mark the sacrifice of the many who have fallen in the service of their country, and to acknowledge the courage of those who still serve,” in the words of the Canadian Legion’s website.
Remembrance Day ceremonies are organized by the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 24 in St. Catharines. In years past, the Legion has organized community gatherings that involved a parade from City Hall to Merritt Park. However, due to COVID-19, the ceremonies have had to be scaled down and will now take place online.
This year’s ceremony will consist of a small gathering of invited Legion members at Merritt Park. The proceedings will be broadcast by local media outlets and on social media. The live stream of the service will begin at 11 a.m.
The City of St. Catharines began a Remembrance Day project in 2019 that saw four banners installed outside of City Hall on Church Street. Each banner respectfully honours veterans. The catalyst for the project was Cecil Hall, who lost his older brother in World War II. There are currently banners honouring Hall’s brothers, one for Wilber who died in combat at the age of 23 and another for James Leslie who returned home and lived a full life.
The coordinators of the project were hoping there would be more banners this year as part of the ceremonies, especially with 2020 marking 75 years since the end of WWII. However, it was determined that due to COVID-19, the project would be put on hold, with hopes of restarting in 2021.
Anyone who would like to honour a veteran with a banner in 2021 should contact Olivia Hope, the City of St. Catharines’ Culture Coordinator at [email protected] to be informed as plans start to take shape.
Remembrance Day is not just about honouring those who gave their lives. The Legion also offers support for veterans with PTSD and other mental and physical health concerns, financial assistance for those who served as well as financial assistance for the widows and widowers of veterans. They also offer programs to help veterans who experience homelessness. Donations to the Legion go directly to funding these programs.
Working to de-stigmatize mental health conditions and providing support to individuals experiencing homelessness is something that you can do to help veterans in your community. There are many charities in St. Catharines where you can donate your time and money year-round.
COVID-19 doesn’t mean that Remembrance Day should be forgotten. Wearing a poppy is a small way that some may choose to pay their respects on Remembrance Day. The poppy campaign is run by the Royal Canadian Legion from the last Friday of October right up until Remembrance Day. Poppies are freely given to anyone who would like one, but donations are accepted and encouraged.
For those who may be staying home, another option is to donate directly to the poppy fund at https://legion.ca/donations. Donations fund national veterans’ programs and support veterans and their families. Donations can be made year-round. If you can’t get out to get a poppy before Remembrance Day, consider giving the money you would have put in a donation box directly to the poppy fund.
Interested residents can find information about their local branch of the Royal Canadian Legion at http://www.rcl24.ca/ and the livestream for the November 11 Remembrance Day ceremonies can be found at www.facebook.com/cityofstcatharines or www.instagram.com/cityofstcatharines.