In Niagara-on-the-Lake cemeteries, gravesites of veterans are being marked with a fresh Canadian flag, part of the Royal Canadian Legion tradition leading up to Remembrance Day.
Once that work is completed, there is usually a small parade on Decoration Day, but that has been cancelled, says long-time Branch 124 member Marg Boldt.
As with all organizations, the local branch is having to make changes to the events it would customarily be holding this fall.
Boldt, this year’s poppy chair, says, “our branch of the Royal Canadian Legion usually salutes the great sacrifice and service of local military veterans. Starting in mid-September, we mark the graves of veterans with a maple leaf and a Canadian flag, and end with our remembrance services honouring our fallen heroes. Because of the COVID-19 restrictions, we cannot hold many of our ceremonies in our usual way.”
Instead, the Legion will provide an update of their ongoing memories project, in conjunction with the Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum, says Boldt.
It will also introduce its new website.
The annual poppy campaign will start Oct. 30, with boxes of poppies available at participating businesses.
“It will be up to businesses whether they want to have them this year, and also up to our individual members to choose whether to take the poppy boxes out on the street,” she says.
Remembrance services for seniors cannot take place, but the Legion is investigating ways to help seniors reflect on their past, says Boldt.
The annual veterans’ dinner is cancelled for this year, but a special meal will be delivered to veterans in early November.
The biggest change, and the hardest decision to make, was to cancel the Nov. 11 parade to the Cenotaph, said Boldt, who feels she has come up with a sensible and safe alternative.
“The services at the Cenotaph on Nov. 11 will not be held this year,” says Boldt. Instead there will be an invitation-only service held at the Legion monument at 410 King St., which will be livestreamed online. There will be a few dignitaries invited, and there is lots of room there for people to spread out, she says.
“If we had tried to do it on Queen Street, people would have stopped by to watch, and we couldn’t stop them. We don’t want to be the cause of an outbreak of COVID.”
There will be wreaths laid at each Cenotaph, on Queen Street and in Queenston, at sunset Nov. 10. The Legion is asking those who wish to offer a wreath to contact the branch before Nov. 2. A list of wreaths will be published in local papers, and on websites.
There will be a spot at each Cenotaph for all to leave their poppy on Nov. 11 as a personal act of remembrance.
“We will maintain as much planning flexibility as possible, and as circumstances change, so will our plans,” says Boldt.