A scheduling shakeup is about to nix one of the West Coast’s longest standing traditions.
Tofino and Ucluelet have traditionally come together on Remembrance Day with each town hosting a shared ceremony every other year but this tradition will end next week as both will be hosting their own ceremonies and both ceremonies will start at 10 a.m.
A scouring of this newspaper office’s archives discovered a Nov. 2, 1977 edition of The Westcoaster—a Westerly News predecessor—that notes it was Ucluelet’s turn to host that year, meaning the two towns have honoured Remembrance Day together for at least 37 years.
This year is also Ucluelet’s turn to host but the Tofino Legion’s executive board has decided to split from tradition and plan their own event.
Legion secretary Cam MacDonald said the executive made its decision at a special meeting held last week.
He said the Legion’s executive was wary of Ucluelet’s Army Navy Airforce Veterans club (ANAF) being potentially shut down by BC ANAF head command and the Legion could not wait for the ANAF’s status to clear up.
“It just got down to the point where we had to start making some preparations and we still hadn’t had any word from Ucluelet,” MacDonald said.
“We called a special executive meeting to review the situation and it was finally decided by the executive that we’d go it alone.”
Minutes after the decision was made, MacDonald got a call from Ucluelet’s ANAF co-interim manager Bronwyn Kelleher who relayed the good news that head command had decided to keep the ANAF open.
“We were still sitting in the meeting when we had a phone call from one of the people in Ukee to say that they were going to do it and I said, ‘I’m afraid that we have just made the decision that we have to get on with it,’” MacDonald said.
“We’re going to help them in any way we can and we’ll no doubt be reviewing the situation again next year… As far as I’m concerned there’s no animosity, I just wish there had been a little more communication and we might have been able to work something out.”
He acknowledged the Legion’s decision could have been reversed at the time of Kelleher’s call but said preparations needed to be made and suggested Tofino and Ucluelet are both well equipped to handle their own ceremonies.
“This business of alternating started when both communities were 500-800 people and you really couldn’t do a notable ceremony in the two places separately,” he said. “I think each community is big enough to put on a good show on their own.”
Tofino’s decision to break the tradition and split up the towns blindsided Kelleher and her fellow ANAF co-interim manager Kasia Kromka.
“We’re disappointed that Tofino has decided to not support our Remembrance Day ceremony, when we all went out to their’s last year, but it is what it is and we’re going forward and we’re going to have a really beautiful ceremony,” Kromka said.
Kelleher said the ANAF’s status with head command was a moot point as she had assured the Tofino Legion executive that Ucluelet’s UAC Hall was booked and ready to go in case the ANAF was shut down.
Both Kromka and Kelleher disputed MacDonald’s claim that the ANAF failed to communicate and said they kept the Legion in the loop at every turn.
“They had their own private closed door meeting at the Legion and they are the ones that didn’t involve Ucluelet,” Kromka said adding the ANAF was not invited to speak at the Legion’s meeting.
“We were shocked that they decided to go ahead with their decision…we’re just going to keep going forward and we’ll see what happens next year.”
She noted the Legion’s decision forced the West Coast’s veterans and organizations like the Canadian Rangers to pick sides.
“It’s making people focus more on choosing a community instead of choosing the West Coast,” she said.
“Tofino and Ucluelet are already a little divided and I think we need to do as much as we can to make sure both communities stay connected and sharing Remembrance Day is a great way.”
She said Ucluelet never considered cancelling their ceremony and letting Tofino take the reins this year.
“That was never a thought,” she said. “We didn’t want to take this opportunity away from Ucluelet. This is Ucluelet’s year.”
Ucluelet RCMP detachment commander Sgt. Jeff Swann was disappointed to hear the two communities won’t be sharing Remembrance Day this year.
This will be Swann’s seventh Remembrance Day ceremony on the West Coast having attended three in each town in the past six years.
“I really want to see that tradition continue of both towns coming together to remember our veterans,” he said.
“It’s Ucluelet’s turn to host it this year and if there’s anything I can offer as a police officer with 20 years service to try to mediate, or meet with the parties on both sides to try to come to some sort of conclusion, my time is free and I’ll gladly volunteer it.”