Pandemic forces Remembrance Day services to minimize or move online

Each year, Calgarians gather on Remembrance Day to pay tribute to those who have served and died in conflict. But this year, events will need to be altered to follow COVID-19 health and safety recommendations.

Event organizers say there won't be large public gatherings this year due to COVID-19

There are 3,200 white crosses in Calgary's Field of Crosses, representing those from Southern Alberta who died fighting in the wars. Remembrance Day will look a little different in 2020 due to the pandemic, but services are still scheduled. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

Each year, Calgarians gather on Remembrance Day to pay tribute to those who have served and died in conflict. But this year, events on Nov. 11 will need to be altered to follow COVID-19 health and safety recommendations.

Mike Vernon, commander of 41 Brigade Group, says that only small groups of reservists will attend Remembrance Day services this year instead of larger gatherings of soldiers in uniform.

"We don't want to draw a crowd," Vernon said. "We want to go out and do it respectfully, do it simply."

Vernon said the groups will be at places like the Military Museums, Field of Crosses and Central Memorial Park's cenotaph. 

Mike Vernon, commander of 41 Canadian Brigade Group, the army reserve group in Alberta, says Remembrance Day gatherings will look quite different in 2020 compared to years past. (CBC News)

Services at the Military Museums, Field of Crosses and the Hanger Flight Museum will all be smaller compared to past years, and will be closed to the general public.

However, all of them will be live streamed and some will be televised.

Brian Desjardins, executive director at the Flight Museum, says Remembrance Day will be much different than years past, but organizers knew it was still important to provide a service on the important occasion.

"We knew that it was important that Remembrance Day not be forgotten, even during a pandemic and that we wanted to ensure that there was a service here and that we're quite pleased with the content," he said.

Brian Desjardins, executive director of the Flight Museum, says this year's service will be livestreamed and broadcast on a local TV network. (CBC News)

Among other regular gatherings, the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium will not hold a service this year, and Canadian Pacific said it will live stream a private ceremony rather than holding a public gathering.

The Field of Crosses will host sunrise and sunset ceremonies that are open to the public from Nov. 1 until Nov. 10, but only invited attendees will be able to access the cenotaph.

On Remembrance Day, it will be closed to the public from 7 a.m. until 2 p.m., when it will reopen with a limit of 100 people.

It will not host sunrise or sunset ceremonies on Nov. 11, but the night of lights will go forward on Nov. 10. The park will be closed at 11 a.m. so that candles can be placed safely, and will reopen when they are in place.

Calgary's first sunrise ceremony for 2020

12 months ago
The daily ceremonies at Calgary's Field of Crosses are running again, although only with invited guests during the pandemic. 1:17

The Royal Canadian Legion has also recently made changes to its annual poppy campaign, which began Oct. 30.

The changes include fewer physical poppies and the introduction of the "digital poppy." Those who want to donate without risk can do so online or in a text-to-donate system, at which point they will receive a digital poppy they can display on screens.

With files from Dave Gilson


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