By Judith van Berkom
Remembrance Day celebrations this year will be scaled down significantly due to the pandemic. For the Westboro Legion Branch 480, Remembrance Day usually has three elements — the Poppy Campaign, Veterans Dinner and Remembrance Day ceremonies.
The Poppy Campaign starts on Oct. 30 this year (the last Friday of October), and ends Nov. 10. It is the only time the Royal Canadian Legion asks the public for donations to help veterans in need. All money raised goes into a separate Poppy Trust Fund, used only to support veterans. The fund is strictly regulated — the money raised cannot be used for operating costs.
Each region is responsible for distributing poppies within their area. Evelyn Brunton, president of the Westboro Legion, is responsible for all aspects of the Poppy Campaign this year. Brunton divided the area into nine routes, in addition to placing poppies in schools and long-term care facilities (if it is deemed safe for the drivers and for the residents of those facilities). Nine different drivers distribute poppies to all businesses on their route and some of the routes have been shortened to minimize the risk to the members.
In years past, tables were set up and manned in Ikea, Walmart, Superstore and two in Carlingwood Mall for the Poppy Campaign. This year, only one table will be set up at Carlingwood Mall, in front of a closed store front, and there will be a Poppy Box at the mall’s courtesy desk.
The annual Veterans Dinner, associated with Remembrance Day, was also cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions on indoor events.
Unfortunately, the local Remembrance Day ceremony was cancelled this year due to safety concerns. Normally, the full ceremony at the Carlingwood Mall — indoors and out of the cold — attracts about 200 people annually. It typically includes a bagpiper (Evelyn Brunton), and a trumpeter and wreaths are laid by Members of Parliament.
The parade to the Westboro Cenotaph from the Legion is likely going to be cancelled as well. The event is often attended by Mayor Watson, city councillors and close to 200 people, with the participation of cadets, active members of the military and veterans.
This year marks the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. To honour this Nov. 11, the Royal Canadian Legion is encouraging people to watch the National Remembrance Day Ceremony at the National War Memorial on television or through the Legion’s Facebook livestream. Spectators are discouraged from attending in person.
The national ceremony will be scaled back for safety: There will be no Canadian Armed Forces or veterans parade and there will be a small number of participants overall, including one trumpeter and one bagpiper to play the Lament, according to the Royal Canadian Legion.
The Westboro Legion —and Legions across the country — need financial help to remain open during these difficult months. Brunton said it cost $2,500 to $3,000 a month to keep the facility open.
A GoFundMe campaign launched at the end of April, to the end of September, raised $3,500. Many people, reluctant to give their financial information online, donated directly to the Westboro Legion, which raised an additional $6,000 (90 per cent of which were donations from members).
The Westboro Legion exists on donations only at the moment. The organization has received permission to allocate two per cent of its income from the Lottery Fund, which is normally given to charities, to operational costs. Since the pandemic began, the highest number of people permitted in the building has been 50, so events have not been held and funding has stalled. Most of the Legion’s annual revenue comes from rentals of the space. In the past, events such as celebrations of life, or wedding receptions, usually hosted over 100 people.
To donate, you can do so directly to the Westboro Legion (391 Richmond Rd., Ottawa, ON, K2A 0E7) and make a cheque payable to the Westboro Legion. To support the Poppy Trust Fund, please make a cheque payable to Westboro Legion, Poppy Trust Fund.
For more information on Remembrance Day, or the Royal Canadian Legion, visit rcl480.com or legion.ca.