The West Coast will gather in Tofino on Nov. 11 to honour Remembrance Day together.
“Remembrance Day on the West Coast is one of the major events of the year. It’s something that everybody gets involved in,” Tofino Legion board member Cam MacDonald told the Westerly.
“I think it goes back to the history of the war where an awful lot of people from here did serve and we also had the airforce base in Tofino. We had everything down to, and including, what they called the
‘Gumboot Navy’ with fishermen actually actively involved in surveillance.”
The day will begin with a 10 a.m. parade from the Tofino Fire Hall to St. Columba Church where a non-denominational service will be held before the parade continues to the Cenotaph outside the Tofino Legion for a Service of Remembrance. Following the service, the Legion’s Ladies’ Auxiliary will host a luncheon inside the Legion.
“Everybody’s welcome; young kids and all,” MacDonald said.
“The Ladies Auxiliary puts in a huge amount of work and they do a beautiful job.”
He said Remembrance Day services bring important reminders of the horrors of war.
“It’s a time when the younger generations can be exposed to what it might have been like, in a gentle way, and to keep it in mind that people do serve, people do get hurt, and it’s something to avoid and to do everything we can to maintain the peace,” he said.
“What we’re doing is passing on the horrible lessons that we learned from two world wars and, I think, that’s something that young people should take to heart because they’re the ones who are going to have to, in a sense, prevent the next ones and serve in the next ones if they aren’t prevented.”
The West Coast had honoured Remembrance Day together for at least 37 years, with annual services alternating between the Legion and Ucluelet’s Army, Navy and Airforce Veteran’s Club, but that longstanding tradition was broken last year when separate events were held in both towns.
ANAF interim president Bronwyn Kelleher said her board was happy to join the Legion’s hosting of Remembrance Day this year but added conversations around future services will continue.
“We are all looking forward to seeing our neighbours and everyone there,” she said. “It will be a good coming together of everybody.”
She said evidence of the West Coast’s important role as Canada’s “forefront of defence” can be seen in still existing infrastructure, like the airport, Seaplane Base Recreation Hall and ANAF Hall.
“We’re entrenched in the history of the war here and we should honour both the larger picture as a nation and the smaller picture as a community,” she said.
She noted both the Legion and ANAF recently appointed new members to their boards and discussions will get underway to decide whether the communities will continue honouring Remembrance Day together.
“We can all talk about it afterwards and decide what we want to do next year. I know there’s a large part of both communities that want it to remain together and I also know that there’s people who feel that the towns have grown enough that we can each do our own event,” she said.
“We need to look at everything and make a decision collectively and make sure there’s not just a few loud opinions drowning out the silent opinions of many…We want to look at everything and have a clear picture on everything before we go forward because this is a huge decision to make that’s going to affect both communities forever and we don’t want to break tradition unless there’s good reason.”
MacDonald suggested the consistently large crowds could warrant two services.
“It’s nice to do something together when we’re out here all by ourselves on the Coast,” he said.
“It really is a major event between the town towns and, this year, I think our luncheon is going to be pretty jammed. With the communities growing the way they are, if we keep up the same Remembrance Day spirit that we’ve always had, we’re going to have to have two Legion Halls for the luncheon.”
Kelleher added that, regardless of whether Remembrance Day is honoured together or separately, the two organizations will continue to support each other.
“Army and Navy [Halls] and Legions are struggling to survive in the world that we live in today. Many of them have closed. We need to band together to stay strong in our own right,” she said.
“Small towns are not often full of as much heart as ours and I think we should remain together in solidarity on the Coast.”