TORONTO - This is the time of year when the poppy, a powerful symbol of remembrance, blooms on the lapels of Canadians as a sign of respect to honour Fallen Veterans.
Recently, a popular international supermarket chain (Whole Foods), with stores across Canada, banned their employees from wearing the poppy. This sparked public outrage, including statements from Premier Ford calling the decision “disgusting and disgraceful”.
The company has since reversed their decision and is allowing team members to wear poppies while at work, perhaps thanks to that pressure applied by politicians or the sheer patriotic wrath of Canadians. However, more than one will wonder why anyone should deny the right to wear a little red flower to honour those who fought for our freedom?
For nearly a century, the poppy remains the iconic emblem of the Royal Canadian Legion – an organization established to recognize and support veterans. Annually, millions of the symbolic flower are distributed throughout the country as part of the Legion’s Poppy Campaign, to be worn by those wishing to recognize the men and women who serve during times of war, conflict and peace. It also commemorates soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice.
In 2018, legionnaires and volunteers distributed an estimated nineteen million poppies nationwide. According to the Legion, over $15 million in donations raised from the annual campaign was disbursed between October 2018-2019 to assist Veterans and their families.
This year, Covid-19 may present some challenges for the Poppy Campaign. For years I remember the veterans, volunteers and cadets (myself included), spreading out across the city to assist various Legion locations in their mission to distribute the poppies in exchange for donations.
With numbers of infections increasing and fewer people getting out, it is very likely that there will be a negative impact on donations raised to help veterans. This year, the Legion, in partnership with HSBC, modernized the Poppy Box, o.ering a new contactless “tap & pay” system with two-dollar increments.
This new technology comes at a time when the pandemic is progressing in the “second wave” across the nation. More people are carrying less cash and opting for plastic to minimize contact and to avoid the spread of contagion.
The funds collected locally, stay within the community. They provide a means to help veterans with the essentials and assists those experiencing homelessness find a way off the streets. The latest government data suggests that between 2000-3000 veterans use Canada’s homeless shelter system every year.
It is illogical to comprehend how fellow Canadians give their service to our country to protect our freedom and then end up in need of help. Wearing a poppy to honour our Veterans is a small gesture and yet means so much. Lest we forget.