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Vancouver veterans mourn cancellation of in-person Remembrance Day ceremonies

Poppy fundraising expected to come up short but 'the real tragedy' is not being able to gather with veterans for Remembrance Day due to COVID-19
The public is being discouraged from attending their local cenotaph this Nov. 11. (Dan Toulgoet)

Stay away from Vancouver cenotaphs this Nov. 11.

The public is being discouraged from attending Remembrance Day ceremonies, which annually commemorate fallen veterans in Victory Square and other locations.

That's in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which also will see Grandview Park's annual ceremony cancelled, said Royal Canadian Legion branch #179 service officer and veteran Reid Lewis.

The pandemic has pushed every other ceremony to go virtual – per a provincial health ban on large gatherings.

“There will be no parades anywhere in Vancouver, no military personnel will be out,” the veteran told Vancouver Is Awesome.

"When we lay the wreaths, we won’t be telling the public."

The Commercial Drive parade of surviving veterans will not go on, added branch #179 president, Pete Salmon.

Some elderly veterans have suited up and braved the cold for years to take part, but their age puts them at high risk from COVID-19.

Poppy sales expected to drop 'way down'

"We know that poppy sales will be way down,” said Lewis, about this year’s fundraising campaign, which annually sees support raised for veterans in the community.

Typically, Vancouver legion volunteers – including veterans and cadets – will stand in front of businesses with trays in-hand to dole out artificial poppies in exchange for donations.

But this year, volunteers will be hindered by new physical distancing requirements, with six feet of distance required.

"We normally bring in about $80,000 a year, just that one branch, from volunteers on the street," Salmon said.

West End branches are known to bring in even more funds, up to $100,000 a year.

Traditional poppy boxes will be set up at approximately 25,000 locations across Canada – like grocery stores and banks, with donors encouraged to pick their own pins.

From this year's sales, the president expects poppies to bring in less than half of what is typically garnered.

"Though the real tragedy is not being able to gather in person for Remembrance Day," Salmon voiced.

People are encouraged to donate to the poppy campaign online when it kicks off Oct. 30.

In the meantime, donations can be made by visiting a local legion or online.