Don Mabbitt, the first vice-president with Branch 250 of the Royal Canadian Legion, lays a wreath during Remembrance Day ceremonies
on Nov. 11.
Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

Remembrance Day observances went ahead on Nov. 11 in Hay River despite restrictions because of Covid-19.

And there were many differences because of the pandemic precautions.

Instead of a full house on the second floor of Branch 250 of the Royal Canadian Legion, there were about 25 people attending the ceremonies and about an equal number of empty chairs.

Vince McKay, president of Branch 250, thanked those at the ceremony and those watching a live stream on Facebook.

“We are limited capacity due to, obviously, the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said. “Thank you for your continued support of our Remembrance Day services.”

McKay noted that everything has changed in 2020, including gatherings for Remembrance Day.

“That being said, war has also changed the world,” he stated, adding it is the reason people observe a day of remembrance. “To remember the fallen and those who fought and contributed to our freedoms of today and forever. Today we pay respect to them and their sacrifices. Our Legion will never forget them and we will remember our veterans in any way we can.”

Afterwards, McKay noted the event received 1,300 views on Facebook.

During the ceremony, there were many noticeable differences compared to years past, including a 50-person maximum capacity.

Those allowed inside included some members of the Legion, veterans and representatives of the Town of Hay River, the RCMP, the Hay River Fire Department and the Canadian Coast Guard.

There was no honour guard for the ceremonies.

And only a half-dozen or so wreaths were laid during the ceremony, while most were placed at the cenotaph outside the Legion.

Rev. Francis Delaplain of St. Andrew’s Anglican Church, who directed the ceremonies, advised people they were not allowed to sing.

“So we ask that you observe the songs in silence,” he said.

The rule against singing even applied to O Canada and God Save the Queen.

The ceremony featured recorded versions of Amazing Grace, the poem In Flanders Field and the Last Post.

“Even in this somewhat strange year, it’s so important that we come together and remember in this way,” said Delaplain.

There were readings from scripture, including by Hay River North MLA R.J. Simpson.

And Ken Comeau, a former paratrooper in the Canadian Armed Forces, spoke on behalf of veterans.

“It is an honour to speak today on behalf of all servicemen, women and especially veterans past and present,” said Comeau. “Remembrance Day has a special meaning for the many, for those who have served and are serving, and veterans and for their families and loved ones.”

Coun. Brian Willows, representing the Town of Hay River, noted that these are difficult times and much is being asked of people by government.

“Let’s remember the sacrifices of the past and put our sacrifices in perspective,” he said.

Near the end of the remembrance ceremonies, Delaplain observed that the empty chairs were a poignant reminder of families who have experienced loss in times of war.

Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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