The Remembrance Day ceremony at the Canada Games Centre (CGC) is something many community members have missed, over the past couple of years, when Covid protocols didn’t allow for large indoor gatherings. This year, however, the ceremony will look much like it did in pre-pandemic years. It’s been a lot of work to put together again, according to Whitehorse Legion President Joseph Mewett, but this year’s edition will once again be an event the whole community can take part in.
“We’re actually doing a full-blown ceremony,” said Mewett. “The only difference is it’s going to be about a half-hour shorter than normal, and the only reason behind that is we’re not laying as many wreaths. A lot of wreaths will be pre-laid the night before.”
As Mewett explained, an hour and a half is a long time to ask so many people to stand, so only the key 20 wreaths will be laid as part of the ceremony, which include those of the Commissioner, the Legion and the RCMP.
Community engagement is a key part of the Remembrance Day ceremony in Whitehorse, and Mewett is happy that the public will be able to participate this year.
“It’s nice to be back where we can involve the public more,” he said. “That was the biggest downfall, that we couldn’t get the public engaged as much as we wanted to, and the public wanted to be engaged.”
Last year, the Legion was hoping to hold the ceremony at the CGC, as usual, but with a smaller capacity. Unfortunately, that didn’t end up being possible and many members of the public chose to have their own outdoor gatherings to honour Remembrance Day. Mewett says it was nice to see people taking it into their own hands, but the coming together of the entire community was missed. The Legion, itself, hosted a small, 25-person event at its headquarters.
“It’s nice to know that people remember and want to do something,” said Mewett.
Mewett said that, over the last few years, he has heard more and more people say that we are losing our veterans—a notion he doesn’t completely agree with.
“Yes, our WWI veterans are gone, and we don’t have many of our WWII veterans left,” he said. “But there are still lots of vets kicking around—we’ve got the Cold War vets, we’ve got the Afghan vets, we’ve got guys that were in UN missions around the world. There’s still lots of us kicking around, but a lot of people don’t look at us as vets.”
To Mewett, Remembrance Day is about honouring all veterans. Mewett, himself, first joined the Canadian Armed Forces Primary Reserves in 1981, before transferring, in 1983, to the Regular Force. In 1984, he was posted to the 3rd Regiment Royal Canadian Horse Artillery. Over the years, he served various positions in the Canadian Armed Forces, including serving three tours of duty, both within Canada and overseas.
“In our eyes, a veteran is a veteran, is a veteran,” he said. “You signed the line to put your life on the line; you’re a veteran.”
According to Mewett, there are actually a few-thousand veterans in the Yukon, including three living WWII veterans.
The poppy campaign has started up again in the Yukon, this year, which began with the first poppy presentation and the raising of the poppy flag at City Hall on October 28. Up until Remembrance Day, Scouts Canada, the Cadets and others will be set up in various stores and businesses, around town, handing out poppies.
“Contrary to popular belief, we don’t charge for them,” said Mewett. “We just ask for a donation, and all the donations we make here in the Yukon, stay here in the Yukon.”
The Legion holds all poppy donation money to support veterans in the Yukon, and their families, in times of need. In the past few years, they’ve helped veterans, who temporarily had no housing, to get back on their feet, as well as helping injured vets, who couldn’t work, with everyday expenses. Additionally, the Legion has donated money to the hospital to better help vets with their injuries and has bought crutches and scooters for vets who needed them.
“The military does get a pension, but it’s not huge,” said Mewett. “The supports aren’t there for a lot of these guys. When they suffer from injuries from being overseas, whether they’re mental or physical, it’s hard. A lot of guys can’t hold down full-time jobs because of the injuries they received overseas, so that’s where all this money comes into play, to help them out.”The Remembrance Day ceremony will be held November 11 at the CGC. For more information, visit whitehorselegionbranch254.ca.