|The boom of a gun rang out in the sky above Ottawa at 11 a.m. ET to mark the start of a moment of silence, but the tens of thousands of people who normally gather to mark Remembrance Day in the country’s capital weren’t there in person to hear it. Instead, a much smaller crowd of 100 or so dignitaries, active service members, veterans and members of the public gathered at the National War Memorial while Canadians across the country tuned in to the ceremony online or on TV.
The scaled-down ceremony in Ottawa reflected the need to avoid large gatherings because of concerns over the spread of COVID-19. The ceremony featured some traditional elements — including the playing of the Last Post and the ceremonial laying of wreaths at the foot of the memorial — while others were cancelled or scaled back. “It’s incredibly important that no matter what is going on we remember our veterans, we remember this moment, we have that moment of silence,” said Gen. Jonathan Vance, the country’s top military commander.
Most observances of Canada’s wartime sacrifices across the country were small after the Royal Canadian Legion explicitly discouraged Canadians from attending Remembrance Day ceremonies. Around 30,000 people normally turn out for the national ceremony. Private ceremonies are also being planned by long-term care facilities that are home to some of Canada’s oldest surviving veterans, many of whom might normally attend a local commemoration but who are at particularly high risk for COVID-19. There was a special emphasis on the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War after many commemorations planned for earlier this year in Europe and elsewhere were cancelled because of the pandemic.