Remembrance Day heading online in New Westminster in 2020

New Westminster’s Remembrance Day ceremony will feature many of its traditional elements – minus the crowds – in 2020.

The City of New Westminster, the Royal Canadian Legion and The Royal Westminster Regiment have been working together to develop COVID-friendly plans for this year’s ceremony. A virtual event will be live-streamed on Wednesday, Nov. 11.

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“There will be partial elements of the program that will be prerecorded and incorporated into the live-stream event on Remembrance Day,” said a staff report to council. “There will be no viewing at the cenotaph on the day; the community will be encouraged to pay tribute to our veterans from their homes.”

The ceremony will include opening remarks from Mayor Jonathan Cote, a memorial address and two minutes of silence. The Royal Westminster Regiment Band will play The Last Post, two pipers will play Lament and students from a local school will recite In Flanders Fields.

Lisa Kemp, the city’s acting special events coordinator, said musical components of the ceremony, including the singing of O Canada and God Save the Queen, will be pre-recorded, as will the poetry reading.

While most of the components from the live ceremony are included in this year’s event, the parade from the regiment to the cenotaph in front of city hall won’t take place.

Kemp said organizers of this year’s virtual ceremony have tried to preserve components of past ceremonies, but have also tried to re-imagine the event by including new programming for the virtual event. This includes children’s artwork related to Remembrance Day and a poetry component featuring the Royal City Literacy Arts Society.

“We are very much reimagining and trying to take something positive from this,” she said. “The positive is, we are trying to involve as many different community groups and community members as we can because we have a new format and there is some space we have to fill on the video.”

The Royal Canadian Legion, which raises funds through its annual poppy and wreath sales, has had to find new ways to get those items to the public. Wreaths are still available, but a group of youth has been designated to place youths at the cenotaph.

“We would have the youth ambassadors – there are six youth ambassadors – who will place the wreath on their behalf,” Kemp said. “That’s quite different because usually if you were to purchase a wreath, you would be the one that lays the wreath at the cenotaph.”

Anyone wishing to buy a wreath for the virtual ceremony can contact 604-524-1151 or rc12@shawcable.com.

COVID-19 has also impacted the local Legion’s annual poppy sales, which are often supported by cadets who sell poppies at locations around the city. The current plan will see Legion officials selling poppies outside Royal Square Mall and Westminster Centre in the days leading up to Remembrance Day.

The virtual Remembrance Day ceremony follows up on online Canada Day celebration on July 1 – where attendance at the virtual celebration exceeded the estimated crowd of 400 who attended the 2019 festivities in Queen’s Park. Organizers of this year’s Remembrance Day event are hoping the virtual ceremony will also allow people who may not normally go to the regiment or city hall to attend this year’s event.

Details about the virtual ceremony are being finalized, but it will be shown on the city’s Facebook and YouTube pages. Links will be posted on the city’s website at www.newwestcity.ca.

The city is also developing programming as part of Veterans’ Week, which runs from Nov. 5 to 11. The city’s museum and heritage services staff are working with the New Westminster Heritage Preservation Society to put together a self-guided walking tour that will include stops at landmarks that have a connection to Remembrance Day, such as the Armoury and the Fraser Cemetery.

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