The red poppy has been an enduring symbol of remembrance for Canada’s war dead for generations. Due to the efforts of Frenchwoman Anne Guerin, the first “poppy day” in both Canada and the UK took place on November 11, 1921. She had lobbied the veterans’ legions of both countries to adopt the poppy as the symbol of remembrance after reading John McCrae’s 1915 poem “In Flanders Fields.” Since then, the poppy has been worn by millions every year to remember the Canadians who lost their lives fighting in that war and subsequent ones.
Its significance comes with the request to not alter or modify it in any way, partly due to the Canadian poppy being a trademarked copyright of the Royal Canadian Legion in Canada. Tradition also informs sensibilities regarding how the poppy is worn, making any changes to it a touchy subject.
Consider how much people are divided on the type of poppy you wear, where to wear it and whether you should reuse one. Sometimes well-intended tributes like the controversy at a local Alberta Tim Horton’s – where an employee decided to offer a “poppy donut” – spark an outcry. The opposition of white poppies, an alternative poppy primarily used in the UK that supporters say promotes pacifism, is another divisive topic. In some these cases the modernization or tributes are meant well, but the changes rub Canadians who uphold the traditional views of the poppy the wrong way.
Each of the arguments is fair: the evolution of the poppy takes away from a sacred, copyrighted symbol which is entitled to as much unwavering respect as those who lost their lives for this country. The symbol is also key source of fundraising for the Royal Canadian Legion. Alternative tributes pose the risk of potentially defiling the symbol, but in some cases, artistic alteration or transformation may revive it for younger generations, keeping the ultimate spirit and legacy of Remembrance Day alive.
As we reach the centenary of the end of World War I, do you think it is time to be more lenient when it comes to tributes associated with the poppy? Should people be able to choose what version they wear, as long as they are showing respect for those who sacrificed for our nation? Or, should we stick to the tried and true symbol that started it all? Let us know below.