Refugee group's poppy project lands amid Cherry bombshell


Even before longtime Hockey Night in Canada personality Don Cherry made the divisive on-air comments that got him fired, an Ottawa group that helps newcomers settle here had already decided to ask "those people," as Cherry called them, why they choose to wear the poppy on Remembrance Day.

On Monday, Refugee613 posted a sample of their answers on the group's Facebook page.

"Canada has given us so much, wearing the poppy is a thank you to a nation who respects people regardless of their ethnicity, religion or nationality," said Salim, one of the participants.

"We suffered the same pain when we lost our sons in the war," wrote Hala. "I forever wish for peace in Canada and in Syria."

Refugee613 only used participants' given names in the examples the group posted.


Refugee613's director, Louisa Taylor, said a staff member came up with the idea and floated it during a group chat with recent arrivals early last week, days before Cherry made his comments.

"There's often a false [idea] refugees and Canadian veterans are on different sides of a divide. We wanted to draw attention to what they share," Taylor said Tuesday.

It's hard to explain Don Cherry to anybody, let alone someone who's just arrived in Canada. - Louisa Taylor, Refugee613

"Many on both sides have had direct experiences with war, trauma and loss. Respecting the fallen is a universal theme."

On Saturday night, Cherry suggested new Canadians were ungrateful for not wearing poppies leading up to Remembrance Day. He was fired on Nov. 11 and has said he won't apologize.

"A lot of the newcomers we talk to are very recent arrivals, some have English as a first language, but they're not hanging out on Twitter or watching Hockey Night in Canada," she said. "It's hard to explain Don Cherry to anybody, let alone someone who's just arrived in Canada."

Taylor said the quick turnaround meant Refugee613 only had time to ask the approximately 500 Arabic-speaking newcomers in the existing group chat the organization uses to connect clients to services, but it's alway interested in telling a broader range of stories.

Refugee613 was founded in 2015 as a hub for different people and groups getting ready to help welcome hundreds of Syrian newcomers to Ottawa.