An RCMP officer and two cadets watch over the Cenotaph in downtown 100 Mile House on Remembrance Day in 2017. (File photo)

Legion, District disagree on where to put Cenotaph

Remembrance Day in community hall considered not safe

A decision that the 100 Mile House Royal Canadian Legion (Branch #260) can no longer use the community hall for the Remembrance Day ceremony because of fire safety is causing some disagreement between the Legion and the District of 100 Mile House.

Legion president Leo Holthuysen says that he agrees 100 per cent with the assessment it’s unsafe but that they don’t agree on what to do next.

The district proposed providing $1,200 to put up tents and TVs outside the community hall which Holthuysen says is unacceptable.

“Who’s going to decide where the old people go and who’s going to say well you have to stay out here?”

In January, he says he told them they would like to use the South Cariboo Rec Centre, because it can accommodate a larger group of people and already offers handicap parking. With how many people have been attending the ceremony, some have had to park as far away as Save-On-Foods which isn’t acceptable anymore either, he says.

100 Mile House Mayor Mitch Campsall agrees holding the ceremony at the arena is the best place for it.

“Guaranteed if they wanted the arena for Remembrance Day, I guarantee that we would make sure that it was available for them. I can’t even see that being an issue.”

However, moving the ceremony means the Cenotaph will have to be moved as well. Holthuysen says that’s needed anyways. With the South Cariboo Farmers’ Market, among other things, being held outside the community hall the Cenotaph, which is essentially a gravestone, is being crowded which is disrespectful, he says.

“So what we proposed, and this is all passed by the Legion membership and so forth, (is) that we would move the Cenotaph over to the tourist area right beside the airplane memorial.”

That would give access to everyone and the parking would be at the arena, he says. The parade would go from Kal Tire, beside Highway 97, to the Cenotaph outside the South Cariboo Visitor Centre where they would hold the ceremony and then proceed to march into the South Cariboo Rec Centre. The Legion and the Department of Veterans Affairs would pay for the move, he says.

“It wouldn’t cost anything except a little plot of land. That’s all we wanted.”

Holthuysen received a letter from Campsall on June 10 that told him the district did not support moving it to beside the South Cariboo Visitor Centre.

“The Info Centre, it’s just not a good spot because you can’t stop there; you’re going to impede traffic. It’s just not a safe place to put it,” says Campsall.

The South Cariboo Rec Centre would be a far safer and better place to put it, says Campsall, adding it also offers better access.

Holthuysen says the Legion isn’t happy with putting it there.

“To move the Cenotaph on the other side of the arena would not be a good idea. This is the best place for it as far as we’re concerned.”

The South Cariboo Rec Centre is owned by the Cariboo Regional District (CRD). Chair Margo Wagner says she’s talked to Holthuysen about it quite a bit. The only space on CRD property where it wouldn’t be in danger of being hit by a snowplow or something like that is behind the arena or off to the west side and neither place is conducive to having it.

“The Cenotaph needs to be somewhere it’s visible for visitors. When you go into any town it tends to be front and centre somewhere.”

She stresses where to put it is not a CRD decision.

Holthuysen says they would like to have it at the visitor centre and have started a petition.

“I think it’s high time that the city realizes that we’re here and acknowledges us.”

Holthuysen says he’s very passionate about it because, being from the Netherlands, he wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the veterans who liberated his town.

“Our oldest veteran, he was in the town when (it was) liberated. It was really nice to be able to actually shake the hand of the guy that liberated my town.”

Holthuysen says he’s not looking to embarrass the town and that he loves the town but that he will be picket council if they don’t do anything about the situation.

The Cenotaph was constructed in 1994.

Both Campsall and Holthuysen acknowledge the ceremony might not happen this year either way because of COVID-19.

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