TORONTO – The red and black poppies worn by millions in the weeks leading up to Remembrance Day continues to represent a powerful symbol of remembrance of the men and women who served their country.
Traditionally worn from the last Friday in October to the end of the day on November 11th, the poppy was first adopted in Canada in 1921 and stands internationally as a “symbol of collective reminiscence” in many places like the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.
Lapel poppies were once made by veterans with disabilities in workshops in Montreal and Toronto and served as a small source of income for the veterans and their families.
In 1996, Veterans Affairs Canada said it was no longer “practical” for them to maintain their operations and the Royal Canadian Legion took on the responsibility for the production of poppies. In so doing, the Legion said Dominion Command “awarded a production contract to a Canadian company to produce the poppies” but that “all operations are conducted under strict Legion control and oversight.”
Although poppies were originally distributed with a black centre but, the colour changed to green more than 20 years ago. In order to reflect the colours of poppies that grew in Flanders–a red flower with a black middle–the centre was changed back to black.
The poppy is worn on the left lapel, or as closest to the heart as possible.
Every year, many ask whether a Canadian flag pin or another fastening device can be used in the centre of the poppy.
“The poppy is the sacred symbol of remembrance and should not be defaced in any way,” said the Royal Canadian Legion. “No other pin, therefore, should be used to attach it to clothing.”
While the Legion said it cannot control the poppy’s form of wear by the public, it is “undoubtedly better to wear a poppy with a Canadian flag in the center than not to wear a poppy at all.”
The Legion, however, currently distributes a metal lapel poppy pin with the words” We Remember” in a bottom banner. This pin and a poppy sticker are suitable for wear on clothing.
During the Legion’s annual poppy campaign, an estimated 18 million poppies are distributed in Canada and overseas.
More than $14 million that is roughly raised annually goes toward programs and financial assistance to to veterans in need and their families.
There is still a lot of work to be done, but a bill that would make Remembrance Day a national statutory holiday has passed Second Reading in Parliament.
The bill, sponsored by New Democrat MP Dan Harris, now heads to a Commons committee for further study.
Even if it passes in Parliament, provinces where November 11th is currently not a holiday—namely Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and Manitoba—would have to change their individual labour codes.
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