Wearing a red poppy on Remembrance Day is a tradition that’s lasted for decades, one that’s served as a visual memorial to veterans who have sacrificed their lives in wartime.
But some Canadians have taken offence to “rainbow poppies,” which have been described as a multi-coloured version of the poppy that honours LGBTQ+ veterans. Reports circulated on right-wing outlets that two students from a high school in Manitoba were suspended for refusing to follow their choir teacher’s demand to wear rainbow poppies.
Coverage is “misinformation:” school board
Cyara Bird, a Conservative MP hopeful who lost in her riding of Churchill-Keewatinook Aski, wrote on Twitter that her 17-year-old cousin Natalie and a classmate had been suspended from Stonewall Collegiate in Stonewall, Man. Bird said the pair allegedly refused a teachers “demand” to wear a rainbow poppy and were suspended for hate speech.
My 17 year old cousin was suspended today... want to know why? Her choir teacher was demanding that the choir wear rainbow poppies during their performance in the Remembrance Day ceremony. She and another student rejected that idea, and both were suspended for “hate speech.”— Cyara Bird (@CyaraBird) November 6, 2019
Stonewall Collegiate’s school board released a statement addressing the coverage about the high school. Interlake School Division made it clear that no student in their district has been ordered to wear a rainbow poppy.
At the time of publication, neither Cyara Bird or Interlake School Division’s superintendent Margaret Ward were available for comment.
(1/3) Statement from the Board of Trustees of Interlake School Division (ISD) regarding recent social media coverage of the use of 'rainbow poppies': In light of misinformation which has been widely spread on social media, we will share that at no point did any staff member of— Interlake School Division (@interlakesd) November 7, 2019
(2/3) Stonewall Collegiate or Interlake School Division direct, nor mandate, any student to wear a 'rainbow poppy'. The Board of Trustees will not comment on matters regarding individual students so as to maintain confidentiality for those involved.— Interlake School Division (@interlakesd) November 7, 2019
The story has been shared by public figures like Canadian white nationalist Faith Goldy, Quillette editor Jon Kay, and Kay’s mother Barbara. However, there is no proof that rainbow poppies are being sold in Canada and the school’s board denies the suspensions have occurred.
He shared a screenshot of a letter written by the 14-year-old teenager that may have partially motivated this alleged suspension.
“They say her letter was hate speech,” he says in the post’s comments. The post has since been taken down.
“Way to un-do centuries of blood sweat and tears all because you need to do the dishes,” the statement reads. “Keep it in your pants Nobody needs or wants to see it.”
He adds that his daughter was also approached several times by individuals, teachers, and her guidance councillor for the views she was sharing.
His daughter confirmed that she wrote the letter in an interview with right-wing outlet The Post Millennial, adding that she taped copies of the letter in her high school’s hallways.
Rainbow poppies aren’t likely available in Canada
In spite of online outrage — including a petition asking prime minister Justin Trudeau to “stop” rainbow poppies ― there have been no signs of rainbow poppies appearing in Canada. The Royal Canadian Legion, which gives out poppies freely every year, does not have a rainbow edition of the pin. At the time of publication, major Canadian online retailers like Etsy, Ebay, and Amazon do not sell rainbow poppies.
Watch: the history of the poppy. Story continues below.
The idea of a rainbow poppy has existed for years, with a design proposed by British poet, Trudy Howson, in 2016.
The pushback seems to follow the initial backlash from a single Ebay posting from a British seller of a hand-made rainbow poppy, with proceeds going to charity. The seller has ceased bidding, after receiving online harassment.
The detractors take issue with the poppy’s changed appearance. However, other variations of the poppy have already been created. In a guide to the colour variations, the BBC lists the black poppy as a symbol honouring Black veterans, the purple poppy for animals who served in war, and the white poppy for those who are anti-war.
So red, black, white, purple, yella, fuckin chartreuse, magnolia n fuchsia poppies are allowed but suddenly everyone loses their shit over a rainbow poppy ? Just say u hate the LGBT community and piss aff x— 𝔯𝔬𝔰𝔦𝔢 🦋 (@rosiemudie) November 4, 2019
Others have criticized the need for LGBTQ+ veterans to deserve an individualized poppy. In response, people online have highlighted the major contributions of queer and trans individuals in war time were often downplayed, as their identities made them vulnerable for stigma and violence. World War Two code-breaker Alan Turing has been used as a prime example.
Queer people: *contribute to war effort*— 🏳️🌈 Max 🏳️🌈 (@SpillerOfTea) November 5, 2019
Straight people: *erase, imprison and torture them*
Queer people: *produce rainbow poppy, which they don’t ask anyone else to wear if they don’t want to*
Straight people: “OMG THIS IS SO DISRESPECTFUL WHY DO YOU HATE HEROES?”
@ all the homophobes who are against the rainbow poppy because “not everything is about the gays” & we “get a whole month”, please take 2 minutes out of your ignorant ass day to research Alan Turing - a gay man who held a significant role in WW2, who was later arrested and died. pic.twitter.com/VZvj6pP5J5— mais 🥀 (@breakfastclvb) November 4, 2019
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