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No crowds or parades as B.C. observes subdued Remembrance Day during pandemic

VICTORIA — The pandemic was ever-present Wednesday at scaled-back and physically distanced Remembrance Day ceremonies across British Columbia.

VICTORIA — The pandemic was ever-present Wednesday at scaled-back and physically distanced Remembrance Day ceremonies across British Columbia.

There were no marching bands or parades of veterans in uniforms in an effort to keep people safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, but abbreviated services still honoured the sacrifices of those who fought for Canada.

Soldiers, veterans and front-line workers all wearing masks were saluted at the small and sombre gathering under grey skies at Vancouver's Victory Square cenotaph.

A black banner with the words "We Remember" fluttered from a nearby building as a few passersby watched from behind an orange construction fence.

Vancouver ceremony director Cam Cathcart said Canadians are now engaged in a new world war caused by an "insidious virus" that is taking the lives of thousands and causing grief and sadness.

"That means that like all older people, elderly, vulnerable veterans are faced with a new enemy, not overseas this time, but here at home," he said.

At the B.C. legislature in Victoria, a fence circled the cenotaph where Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin placed a wreath.

Legion Padre Rev. Canon Andrew Gates delivered a brief sermon, saying the current fight for health and peace is a stark reminder that past pandemics and world wars have cost millions of lives.

"One hundred years ago another pandemic claimed the lives of millions and through the killing ashes of war, pandemic and financial ruin came an ugly generation of despotic, ruthless, barbaric, power-hungry leaders who took the world to yet another devastation," he said.

Gates said people must never forget others have selflessly fought to ensure people today can pursue peace.

"These are not easy times," he said. "God enable us and embolden us for we are better than cannon fodder. For we are the inheritors of the dreams of those who gave their all that we might know peace."

Cathcart praised the efforts of Canadian Forces members who have stepped up in the "war against COVID-19."

He said members of the military recently helped front-line workers battle outbreaks at long-term care facilities in Ontario and Quebec.

The effort to help the elderly is a reminder that the men and women who serve in the military are there for Canadians abroad and at home when facing threats of fires, floods or a virus, Cathcart said.

He said just over 26,000 veterans of the Second World War are still alive, 5,900 of them in B.C. 

Cathcart mentioned three servicemen who passed away recently, including George Chow who landed with the Canadian Army in Normandy shortly after D-Day. Chow died last week just one day short of his 100th birthday, he said. 

"As they are dwindling quickly, we must be mindful of the debt that we owe them for the freedom we enjoy today." 

While wearing masks, Vancouver's Bach Youth Choir performed the well-known Second World War chart topper "We'll Meet Again" at the Victory Square service.

A single white rose was placed at Vancouver's Victory Square cenotaph after the wreaths to honour all veterans in care.

The Victoria service included a lone bagpiper and a bugler performed The Last Post.

 — With files from Hina Alam in Vancouver. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 11, 2020.

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said the name of the popular Second World War song was "Until We Meet Again."