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Why did more than 20 people collapse at North Vancouver's Remembrance Day ceremony?

The Nov. 11 ceremony at Victoria Park in North Vancouver played host to an unusually large number of faintings
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The North Shore community turns out to honour veterans at the City of North Vancouver's Remembrance Day event at Victoria Park Nov. 11, 2023. | Mina Kerr-Lazenby / North Shore News

It had been a particularly memorable Remembrance Day ceremony in North Vancouver on Saturday – the public had turned out in their thousands, the service was particularly touching and even the sun had made an appearance, despite the gloomy forecast.

For some in attendance, however, the most unforgettable element of the day wasn't the weather nor the tributes paid, but the sight of two dozen people collapsing like dominoes.

North Shore Rescue, along with the aid of the BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS), BC Scouts and the Cadets, were forced to swoop in on 23 separate occasions throughout the course of the day. Yet while it might have made for an alarming scene – there was chatter about the issue on social media platforms after the event, and one concerned citizen sent a note to the North Shore News demanding an investigation – North Shore Rescue’s Peter Haigh offered assurances that attendees, particularly military personnel standing at attention, hitting the deck during such events isn't an uncommon occurrence.

“It’s very normal in a crowd of that size,” he said, adding how rescue crews attend the service at the Cenotaph each year “just in case anybody has an issue.” 

Standing stationary in heavy garments for long periods of time is enough to send anyone crumbling to their knees, he said, adding how this year’s larger number of faintings would have likely been down to the larger than usual turn-out, as well as people being overdressed in anticipation of cold and wet weather.

Those who collapsed were picked up and brought to the North Shore Rescue’s on-site weatherproof tent, given blankets and something to drink, he said.

While a few adults with pre-existing conditions made up the 23, including one who had to be taken to hospital but was later dismissed, the majority of the personnel to crumple had been young cadets still learning the tricks of the trade, said Haigh.

“When you get into the military you learn how to stand for long periods of time – you have to stand on your toes, not on your heels. You have to have food in you to keep you going, and you have to be in the right sort of clothing for this sort of stuff,” he said. “It’s all knowledge that comes with time and training.”

Mina Kerr-Lazenby is the North Shore News’ Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.

MKerrLazenby@nsnews.com
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