COVID-19 has forced cancellation of Remembrance Day events at Royal Canadian Legion branch halls in the Nanaimo area in 2020. Pictured here, the ceremony from 2018. (News Bulletin file)

COVID-19 has forced cancellation of Remembrance Day events at Royal Canadian Legion branch halls in the Nanaimo area in 2020. Pictured here, the ceremony from 2018. (News Bulletin file)

Nanaimo’s legion halls decide to close on Remembrance Day as a COVID-19 precaution

Remembrance Day ceremony can be viewed live on Shaw TV on Nov. 11

Originally intending to open for Remembrance Day, Royal Canadian Legion branches in Nanaimo and Lantzville will now follow advice of health officials and shutter for the day, due to rising COVID-19 numbers.

In a letter to B.C. and Yukon region branches, Val MacGregor, B.C./Yukon Command president, said based on advice from Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, it is recommended that all indoor events and gatherings be cancelled for Nov. 11. However, there will be allowance for small outdoor ceremonies that adhere to health orders, MacGregor said.

“For the best interest of our veterans, members, and their families, I must ask you to cancel any events planned following your Nov. 11 commemorations and insist that all branches remain closed for the day,” MacGregor said.

A Nanaimo memorial ceremony will be broadcast live by Shaw TV beginning at 10:30 a.m. and while Royal Canadian Legion Branch 256 Mount Benson had planned to provide breakfast, lunch and an opportunity to watch the ceremony, that will no longer be the case.

In a letter to members, Lewis Forth, Branch 256 president, said branch officials felt “a real sense of sadness and loss” about the announcement.

“With increasing COVID numbers it is our primary responsibility to keep our members – many of whom are at high risk – veterans, and members of the general public safe whenever possible,” Forth said in the letter. “Judging from attendance in previous years it is felt that controlling numbers and socializing would be very difficult and just too high a risk at this point in the pandemic.”

Royal Canadian Legion Branch 10 Nanaimo, which had planned for a limited gathering following the ceremony, will also follow the directive of B.C. Yukon command and close for the day.

A private ceremony in Lantzville at Huddlestone Park will still take place on Remembrance Day, said Frank Mezzatesta, Royal Canadian Legion Branch 257 Seaview Centennial president, but a subsequent gathering at the legion hall has been cancelled in order to adhere to the order.

In her letter, MacGregor said that while it “pains her” to ask legions to take such “drastic action,” it is the duty of the command to keep veterans, members and communities safe.

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