On Saturday I attended the Remembrance Day ceremony in North Delta, as I have most years since the inception of this newspaper.
It was, as always, a stirring tribute to all those who have served and the many who made the ultimate sacrifice, with all the usual solemnity and observances.
While always a somber affair, this year’s ceremony was also a bit sad as attendance both by participants and observers seemed to me to be much lower than in years previous.
There were a number of people there, to be sure — speakers at the event, dignitaries and wreath-layers in their seats, the Immaculate Conception School choir and members of the public encircling the North Delta Social Heat Plaza — but the crowd wasn’t as dense as it’s been, and the plaza’s lawn, typically filled with local scouts, girl guides and cadets, was nearly empty.
Around three dozen beavers, cubs, scouts, venturers and leaders stood in one of the three corrals, four air cadets in another, and the last was entirely empty. Another handful of cadets were filling other roles, such as in the honour guard flanking the memorial wall and as escorts for those laying wreaths. Several scouts also helped lay wreaths on behalf of local schools.
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But there were no girl guides there as far as I could see, nor were any of the army cadets who parade at Seaquam Secondary, and the number of scouts and air cadets on hand was far fewer than last year, or what it was in pre-COVID times.
Maybe some were taking part in the 9th Surdel Scouts’ Remembrance Day Parade, which ran from Seaquam Secondary to Sunshine Hills Elementary Saturday morning after a three-year pause.
And of course there were swim lessons and hockey practices and soccer games and a host of other extra curricula activities that don’t necessarily pause for stat holidays, plus power outages caused by the wind storm overnight that may have disrupted people’s well-intentioned alarms.
But it was still rather sad to see — just a big, empty, open space that in years previous has been filled with youths paying their respects to the fallen.
Looking at pictures of the ceremony in Ladner, it brought into sharp focus the vast differences between our local ceremony and the larger one for South Delta.
Here in North Delta we get one lone DPD piper to lead the “parade” from the back of the rec centre to the Social Heart Plaza; in Ladner the whole Delta Police Pipe Band plays as participants march the five blocks down Delta Street from Royal Canadian Legion Branch 61 to the cenotaph.
Beyond the piper, I counted four other Delta Police officers taking part in North Delta this year — two senior officers who laid a wreath on behalf of the department, and another two as part of the honour guard.
Delta Fire & Emergency Services also had five members on hand: two senior members who laid a wreath on behalf of the department, another firefighter who placed one on behalf of the union, and two more as part of the honour guard.
Compare that to Ladner, where both organizations had dozens of members on parade, joining Legionnaires from both the Ladner and Tsawwassen branches, scores of air and army cadets (I guess that’s where the Seaquam corps chose to send their people this year), girl guides, scouts, and a contingent of military police at Memorial Park.
The city even brought in one their mobile stages for the event — North Delta got a simple podium under a tent.
I get we’re not comparing apples to apples here. Memorial Park is a much bigger space than the Social Heart Plaza. And while the City of Delta co-hosts both events, the Ladner one is done in partnership with Royal Canadian Legion Branch 61, perhaps lending it more gravitas and opening more doors vis-a-vis attendees.
North Delta doesn’t have a legion (the closest on this side of the Fraser is Branch 229 in Whalley or Branch 6 in Cloverdale, both of which have their own City of Surrey Remembrance Day events, and Branch 289 in Tsawwassen). Instead, the volunteer-run Kennedy Seniors’ Society co-hosts our more modest affair, and does a fine job at that.
But if the city is going to hold two official Remembrance Day ceremonies, one serving Ladner/Tsawwassen and one North Delta, it would be nice if the Social Heart event didn’t feel…second rate I guess, more akin to a school assembly* than a formal community event with full buy-in from our police and fire departments, as well as other community organizations.
*(This is not a knock against the wonderful Immaculate Conception School choir who perform at the North Delta ceremony; those kids do an incredible job each and every year.)
For those who came out to the Social Heart Plaza Saturday morning, the Remembrance Day ceremony did what it should. We all took some time out of our busy lives to pay our respects to those who had served, those who serve today, and those who died in service of their country. We contemplated their sacrifice, and whispered a quiet thanks for the rights and freedoms we all enjoy.
I only wish more of our neighbours had joined us.
James Smith is editor of the North Delta Reporter.
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