I first wrote about why I wear a red poppy and not a white one a couple of years ago. Now, according to a CBC story, the Rideau Institute has taken over the task from the Island Peace Committee in Prince Edward Island and is running a white poppy campaign. The problem is that their whole campaign is based on the incorrect interpretation of what a red poppy pin signifies. According to the story, they claim the red poppy pins glorify war.
They are wrong.
The red poppies do not “glorify war”. They are symbols of “Remembrance, our visual pledge to never forget all those Canadians who have fallen in war and military operations”. Though they’ve been this symbol since 1921, their association with those who were killed in wars can be traced back to the Napoleonic Wars in the 1800s, more than 110 years before being adopted in Canada.
“Anyone who thinks soldiers selling poppies is glorifying war knows nothing about war,” he said. “You’ll never find anyone who hates it more. It makes me misty. My father served and couldn’t talk about it until I was 18.” — Doug Gunn, son of a verteran (quoted in the CBC story)
Personally, I wear a poppy to remember people I never knew but who died serving my country, and family members like my great-uncle Fred who died in 1944. I also wear it as a sign of respect for those who have served and survived, such as my former neighbour, Jack, who I have seen in the crowd shots in the television coverage of more than one Remembrance Day ceremony. Jack told me a couple of years ago that he has been asked to lay a wreath on behalf of our MP at the local Remembrance Day ceremony, something he was immensely proud of.
It’s important to understand that the red poppies are for those who died and not for the wars they died in. To suggest that they stand for anything else is incredibly disrespectful of their sacrifice.