Trio of remembrance ceremonies scheduled for Oakville

Trio of remembrance ceremonies scheduled for Oakville
White poppy sales soar, as MP criticises disingenuous trend
As this year's Remembrance Day marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, for the first time in history, the Royal Canadian Legion has introduced a virtual version of the iconic flower in hopes to capture the attention of young Canadians.

"I believe we have to embrace the digital age," Port Arthur Legion Branch 5 president Dell Babcock said. "I think it's a good way to involve the younger Canadians throughout the country to participate in the poppy campaign."

The digital poppy, according to the deputy director at the Royal Canadian Legion, was an idea that came up a year ago when hockey commentator Don Cherry noticed the lack of pins in public.

"The digital poppy resembles the lapel poppy and its online for people that utilize their social media all the time," said  deputy director, Danny Martin. "The legion wanted to get out there and give the people the opportunity to engage in remembrance on the digital medium they use."

He said despite the 1400 legion branches in Canada, the "reach is still limited" especially in big cities as the legion does not have a branch in every community across the country.

Digital poppies can also be personalized and dedicated to family members, friends or loved ones, Martin added, which has received a lot of positive feedback.

"There's always this movement within Canada where people want to acknowledge that they are related to individuals who have sacrificed … [but] there's no real way to demonstrate that," Martin said, adding that it is illegal for anyone to wear another individual's medals.

"So this is a way to actually donate or recognize the service of somebody that has done something for Canada."

He said one lady bought 20 digital poppies in order to acknowledge the 20 different people she knew who had sacrificed their life.

According to the president of the Port Arthur Legion, the annual poppy campaign in the northwestern Ontario city has been "pretty consistent and the donations seem to increase every year."

The digital poppy was launched on Friday, October 29 at the same time the traditional poppies were available to the public.

Babcock said he believes that the new digital poppy will help attract younger Canadians across the country, however "time will tell how successful the effort is … as there's limited information out there about it."

"It will certainly provide the opportunity to bring in some extra funds," Babcock said. "I think it will be a success. This is the way things are going now-a-days. People are doing things online [and] they are not doing it on paper anymore."

To mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, Babcock said, church bells across Thunder Bay will be rung 100 times at dusk on November 11.

It is a priority for CBC to create a website that is accessible to all Canadians including people with visual, hearing, motor and cognitive challenges.

The Peace Pledge Union (PPU), who make and produce the white poppy, have seen a 30 per cent increase in the number being sold compared to this time last year.

With one week still to go until Remembrance Sunday, which will mark 100 years since the end of the First World War, the charity have overtaken last years total and sold 101,660 white poppies.

The PPU, whose busiest year was in 2015 when they sold 110,000 of the alternative Remembrance symbols, put the money from the sales towards their educational pacifism programmes.

The charity have had increased interest from Churches and schools, selling at least 60 white poppy school packs – more than double the number of orders that they received last year.

Conservative MP and former British Army officer Johnny Mercer, who last week described white poppies as attention seeking rubbish, said: "If people want to wear a white poppy then that is up to them.

"What I dont like is this insinuation that these campaign groups just dont like war so therefore [they] wear the white poppy because the red poppy is a celebration of war – I think its extremely disingenuous.

Every soldier I know wants peace. If you want to celebrate those aims, then you could literally pick any other symbol you liked rather than using a symbol that has been used to raised money for injured soldiers and their families for a long time."

Last week, Mr Mercer took to Twitter criticising white poppies, saying: Ignore the wearers of them. If you dont want to wear a poppy dont bother; they fought and died so you could choose. But dont deliberately try and hijack its symbolism for your own ends.

Commenting on the increased popularity of the white poppy this year, Symon Hill, the PPUs co-ordinator, said: We are very pleased with the response. We have been taken aback by the number of orders – it has been a pleasant surprise.

Mr Hill believes that the number of white poppy orders have increased for a variety of reasons, including the "rise of the far-right".

There are people who are worried about the rise of nationalistic governments and far-right politics around the world. To counteract that, some people want to assert their compassion for others, he said.

Mr Hill also thinks that this years popularity stems from the PPU making a bigger effort to change the misunderstanding surrounding white poppies, adding: We are not trying to insult the Remembrance of the British Armed Forces.

"White poppies in no way take money away from charities supporting veterans – white poppy wearers often make donations to charities supporting veterans or other victims of war. Local groups selling white poppies often donate the funds raised to such charities.

The new figures revealing the increased popularity of the white poppy come two weeks after St Johns Ambulance announced that they are allowing their volunteers to wear it for the first time ever.

The 141-year-old first-aid organisation changed their dress code ahead of the the centenary of the First World War armistice welcoming the PPUs alternative poppy.