RCMP investigating protesters showing up at Kelowna cenotaph while people pay respects for Remembrance Day

Disruption 'a step too far'

UPDATE: 4:16 p.m.

Kelowna RCMP are investigating into the 'disruption at Cenotaph' that occurred Thursday morning, when a person opposed to COVID-19 measures started to speak while people were paying their respects.

Officers responded to a report of 75-100 demonstrators at City Park around 10:55 a.m.

"Ceremonies across the city had been restricted due to the pandemic; however, members of the public as well as veterans gathered to remember," their new release shared.

Demonstrators interrupted the assembly and officers attended the scene to keep the peace.

“Kelowna RCMP officers support a person or groups right to protest, but when they choose to willfully interrupt the assembly of citizens at a Remembrance Day ceremony; this is a step too far. The Kelowna RCMP will be fully investigating this event to determine what offence, criminal or otherwise may have been committed and if appropriate the submission of charges or fines.” Insp. Adam MacIntosh Operations Officer shared in the release.

RCMP are asking for anyone who captured the disruption on video to send a copy of the video to the detachment. The RCMP is in the process of creating an email proxy for this purpose and more information will soon be made available.

Anyone with any information is asked to contact the Kelowna RCMP at 250-762-3300 or remain completely anonymous by calling Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or by leaving a tip online at www.crimestoppers.net

UPDATE: 2:45 p.m.

A man who recited the Ode of Remembrance at Kelowna's City Park cenotaph Thursday morning was “disgusted” when a woman began speaking about COVID-19 vaccine mandates to the crowd, who were there to remember the fallen.

Neal went to the cenotaph Thursday morning to pay his respects to those who've died in past wars. While the City of Kelowna once again did not hold a formal ceremony, due to the pandemic, Neal said he wanted to recite the Ode to the Fallen at the cenotaph, which he did in 2020 as well.

“It's something that needs to be said ... these things are measures of respect,” Neal told Castanet.

When he saw someone had set up a microphone attached to a generator, he asked if he could recite the poem. The impromptu ceremony also included a bugler playing The Last Post and Reveille, and a piper playing Piper's Lament.

But immediately after he finished reciting the poem, Neal says a woman who appeared to be with the people who brought the sound equipment started speaking about vaccine mandates.

“She came onto the mic and then began with this bulls**t about how the legion had dropped the ball, blah, blah, blah, vaccines ... fill in the blank,” Neal said.

He noted the woman didn't appear to have any knowledge of the poem he recited, which is regularly recited at Remembrance Day ceremonies.

“She had no knowledge of it, she didn't have it there with her, she wasn't there to participate in any level of a Remembrance ceremony,” he said. “She was there to slag the legion because they're requiring vaccines.”

Video from the scene shows Neal wasn't the only one upset by the woman's speech, as several people loudly expressed their disapproval to the woman.

“I've never been as disgusted in my fellow man in my life. There were many, many people there voicing that,” Neal said.

“I don't care about your position, it's the day. You can go ahead and pick a different spot, you might as well go protest in front of a school or hospital, it's as reprehensible.”

Neal says he has no affiliation with the group who brought the sound equipment, and he doesn't think the bugler and piper were associated with them either, as they walked away from the area once the woman started talking about vaccines.

Neal says he had actually reached out to the local legion a few days prior and suggested they send a bugler to the cenotaph on Remembrance Day.

Most of the group who were gathered at the cenotaph dispersed once the woman took the microphone, Neal says. While no formal ceremony was held this year, the Field of Crosses was set up in City Park for people to privately pay their respects.

A number of RCMP officers were at City Park following the incident. Castanet has reached out to the Kelowna RCMP for more information.

UPDATE: 12:40 p.m.

Police responded to Kelowna's City Park Thursday morning after a person opposed to COVID-19 measures caused a disruption, as people were paying respects to the fallen.

The Field of Crosses was set up in City Park, along with a number of wreaths at the base of the cenotaph, for residents to pay their respects to the fallen. The City of Kelowna did not hold a formal ceremony due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A group of people protesting the province's COVID-19 measures set up beside the cenotaph with a microphone and a woman spoke about COVID-19 and vaccines. The group included Bruce Orydzuk, a regular COVID-19 protester who was caught on camera hurling racist comments at a security guard outside a vaccination clinic last summer.

The disruption appeared to upset many in the crowd, with some telling her it was not the place for such a protest.

"Ceremony in downtown Kelowna was ruined by an anti-vaxxer speech," a Castanet reader said. "Crowd dispersed, police called."

"At the end of the brief ceremony an anti-Vaxxer, anti-masker grabbed the mic and started on a rant," another person posted on social media. "It was upsetting to most of the people there that this person would choose this time and place to express their views especially on such a sensitive subject."

A number of RCMP officers were roaming around the cenotaph area Thursday morning, and one officer said they were there because of the protesters. Castanet has reached out to the Kelowna RCMP for more information.

The only formal Remembrance Day ceremony held in the Central Okanagan took place at West Kelowna's Royal LePage Place Thursday, where the event's capacity was limited to 750 people.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most public ceremonies were once again cancelled.

ORIGINAL: 4 a.m.

Remembrance Day will be marked in a subdued manner in many Thompson-Okanagan communities today.

Some Royal Canadian Legion branches are hosting public ceremonies, but others are holding private gatherings to remember the fallen.

The Kelowna Legion (Branch 26) is not hosting a formal public ceremony. There will be a small, private, outdoor event for some of its members.

Those wishing to pay their respects can do so at the Field of Crosses set up in City Park.

West Kelowna is hosting a public indoor Remembrance Day ceremony, at Royal LePage Place, from 10:45 a.m. to Noon, Thursday. Capacity is limited to 750 people. Everyone 12 and over must be fully vaccinated, and everyone, including children under 12, must wear a mask.

In Vernon, there will be a small, private ceremony at the cenotaph downtown.

Veterans in Kamloops will lay wreaths during a brief, private ceremony of invited guests, which will be available online. www.facebook.com/KamloopsLegion/

There will be an outdoor public Remembrance Day ceremony in Penticton at Veterans Memorial Park, beginning at 11 a.m. People should arrive at least 15 minutes early, masks are mandatory, and attendees must maintain physical distance.

In Peachland, there will be a ceremony at the cenotaph at 11 a.m. and live music at the legion from 2-4 p.m.

The Summerland Legion will be live streaming its ceremony for the public to watch.

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