Remembrance Day will look a bit different this year, but the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) is working hard to find new ways to honour Canada’s fallen.
On Nov. 4, the organization announced a free digital remembrance event called #ShineOn, which will allow Canadians to name a star after one of the 1.7-million Commonwealth war dead in the CWGC’s care. The CWGC then asks residents to take a moment at 7 p.m. on Nov. 11 to step outside, look at the stars, and remember Canada’s fallen.
David Loveridge, the CWGC’s director for Canada and the Americas, said most Canadians won’t be attending large indoor and outdoor services this years. He’s hoping the #ShineOn campaign will give those residents an alternative way to express their gratitude.
“What we’re hoping is that people don’t just go, ‘well, we’re going to take a pass on Remembrance Day,” said Loveridge, who served 22 years in the Canadian Forces before joining the CWGC in 2019. “(We’re hoping) that we’ll find a different way to take a few moments to remember those who gave their lives for Canada.”
2020 was supposed to be a significant year for the CWGC, since it marked the 75th year since the end of the Second World War. Loveridge said many of their plans were scrapped after the COVID-19 outbreak started, which forced them to get creative.
The #ShineOn campaign grew out of new remembrance plans for Victory over Japan Day in August. Loveridge said they were amazed at how successful that campaign was, and they decided to expand it for Remembrance Day.
“You don’t have to travel anywhere. You don’t have to be in crowds. It’s just an alternative way for people still to keep Remembrance Day alive, at least during this crazy time,” he explained.
Loveridge said Canadians have really changed how they’ve honoured veterans over the last 10 to 15 years, but some traditions remain. The biggest are the large gatherings at the National Cenotaph in Ottawa, plus smaller ceremonies at war memorials in cities around the country.
Instead, Loveridge suggested Canadians visit veterans who are buried in cemeteries across Canada. The CWGC says there are more than 3,000 Canadian cemeteries with war dead, including three in Prince Albert. Loveridge said visiting those graves is an easy way to honour the dead, while staying safe during the outbreak.
“What I keep telling people since I’ve started is you don’t have to be at the big ceremonies,” he explained. “You can just spend time and go to a local cemetery. It’s just the idea that they will not be forgotten. That’s important.”
Canadians are also encouraged to share memories on social media using the #ShineOn hashtag about family and friends who died while serving in the Canadian Forces. The campaign will also include a virtual Wall of Remembrance on the CWGC website (www.cwgc.org).
On Nov. 11, the CWGC plans to beam searchlights into the sky from select cemeteries and memorials as a symbol that even in dark times, Canada’s fallen will never be forgotten.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission commemorates the servicemen and women who died during the First and Second World ward. It holds and updates an extensive archive of accessible records, and operates more than 23,000 locations in more than 150 countries.