Canadians sporting poppies on their lapels can support the country’s veterans in a new way this Remembrance Day.
The Royal Canadian Legion will be offering what they describe as “digital poppies” for the first time.
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Nujma Bond, who works for the Legion, explained to Global News that the digital poppies are meant to be complementary to traditional ones.
“We essentially wanted to give Canadians another option, another means of donating to the poppy campaign,” she explained.
About 20 million lapel pins will be distributed this year.
WATCH: Canada’s Remembrance Day poppy goes digital
How does the digital poppy work?
The digital poppy has been made available online for Canadians on the legion’s website and on mypoppy.ca.
After making a donation, Canadians get access to a poppy, which they can post online via social media websites such as Facebook.
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They can also choose to keep it unnamed or dedicate the poppy to a specific person.
Like traditional poppies, the funds will go toward the Legion’s Poppy Campaign, which provides funding for several veterans services.
“The funds are used for a range of financial assistance and support for veterans for things like food and heating costs, medical equipment, and the work of branch service officers across the country, who represent veterans at no cost, and help them access the support they need,” Bond explained.
The legion posted photos of what the poppies will look like, including examples of digital poppies created by prominent Canadians, such as author Margaret Atwood.
Atwood dedicated hers to Brig.-Gen. T.G. Gibson.
“I’m dedicating my digital Poppy to Brigadier General T.G. Gibson, my spouse Graeme’s father,” she wrote in her tribute message. “He fought in World War Two in Italy and then through Holland and into Germany.”
Why go online?
Bond explained that offering an online version of poppies is simply a new way to reach Canadians.
“It’s just the way the world is going,” Bond explained. “We wanted to reach people who may not be carrying as much cash as they used to.”
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But she noted that the Legion expects similar poppy etiquette will be followed online — especially when it comes to comments and tributes.
“We expect people to show common respect that they would use when speaking about our veterans,” Bond said.
Connecting with youth
Another reason for making the poppy digital is connecting with younger Canadians, who Bond explained may not have the same experience with war as the older generation in terms of the world wars.
But she noted that poppies are meant to honour veterans and victims of other wars as well.
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“There have been many conflicts since then, whether it has been Afghanistan or Bosnia,” she said. “Veterans of those conflicts need to be remembered in those same manners.”
She said she hopes digital poppies can help “trigger younger Canadians to think about all the conflicts and what they have meant for our country.”
Do youth need to be more involved?
While there has been a conversation around getting younger Canadians more involved in Remembrance Day, one survey suggests traditions aren’t fading away.
A 2017 survey conducted by Ipsos on behalf of Historica Canada found that millennials are leading a gradual resurgence of interest when it comes to attending Remembrance Day ceremonies.
It found that found that 29 per cent of respondents planned to attend a ceremony to honour fallen soldiers last year — that was an increase of three percentage points from 2016 and marked a return to highs established in 2015.
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It said 37 per cent of millennial respondents planned to attend a ceremony, well ahead of the 29 per cent of baby boomers over age 55 who were surveyed.
Historica chief executive officer Anthony Wilson-Smith said veterans relaying the horrors of war in person in Canadian schools, or sharing their anecdotes in online archives, have had a chance to make an impression on a demographic that often gets a “bad rap.”
“We’re more aware of our place in the world, and that translates into a greater appreciation of sacrifice in a global context,” he said.
— With files from The Canadian Press