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Disappointing that Barrie didn’t have an official Remembrance Day service at the city’s cenotaph

November 2021

On Remembrance Day 2021, a crowd of more than 3,000 gathered at Toronto’s Cenotaph out front of Old City Hall on Queen Street. The crowd, that included current and former military, dignitaries and ordinary citizens, listened to guest speaker Marvin Gord, a 100-year-old RCAF veteran who served as a radar specialist during World War II. His duties took him from England to Africa and Italy.

Gord also laid a wreath at the cenotaph, assisted by Major-General (Ret’d) Dave Fraser, former Canadian Forces commander in Afghanistan.

Other cities throughout Canada also held full Remembrance Day ceremonies.

This is in contrast to what occurred, or more accurately didn’t occur, in Barrie. The city decided to cancel the in-person ceremony at the cenotaph, just as they had done last year, in favour of a private ceremony at Barrie’s Royal Canadian Legion Branch 147. Despite this, a small crowd of around 200 people did show up at memorial square, standing in a circle around the cenotaph, determined to pay their respects to our war dead. The same thing happened last year.

As there were no officials from either The Legion or the city to lead the ceremony, one man stepped forward at 11 O’clock, to announce the time, at which everyone stood silently, some with heads bowed, others at attention and saluting, while another person in the crowd played The Last Post on their phone. After a brief silence, not quite the usual two minutes, but close enough given that there was no one to lead and mark the time properly, the gathered crowd proceeded towards the cenotaph to lay their poppies at the base.

It’s heartwarming to think that despite the city’s decision to cancel the ceremony, a small group of Barrie citizens disregarded that decision and held their own impromptu ceremony. It’s also disappointing to think that neither the Barrie Legion Branch, nor city council had enough foresight to see that our annual Remembrance Day service is more important

While no one wants to get sick, or worse, from this terrible virus, if we can gather at sporting events, in movie theatres, in restaurants, or at political gatherings during an election campaign, as we did just over a month ago, there’s no reason why Barrie couldn’t have held a scaled-back Remembrance Day service for those who chose to attend. Sure, it’s prudent to leave out the parade, the speakers, prayers and the laying of wreaths, while holding a private service for elderly veterans, as the Barrie Legion did.

However, there’s no reason why one city or Legion official couldn’t have attended the cenotaph, armed with a simple P.A. system, so that the Last Post could be played, along with Reveille to break the two minutes of silence. That’s something that very easily could have been done, with no more danger to public health than any other outdoor public gathering, on any given day. I think it’s safe to say that Barrie residents have spoken; that at least 200 people feel comfortable enough to gather, for a short period, to honour our veterans and our war dead.

Although the Chinese Communist Party Virus (COVID-19) is far from being beaten, and we still need to follow health protocols, at some point we are going to have to return to our normal routines, while following the normal hygiene precautions that we should all be practicing, like washing your hands more than once a day, especially during the annual cold and flu season.

Hopefully by the time Remembrance Day 2022 rolls around, Barrie will once again, have a full and proper ceremony. Our Veterans deserve it.

Sources: Remembrance Day (barrie.ca), WARMINGTON: Second World War vet’s moving Remembrance Day wreath laying | Toronto Sun.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

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