Beginning after World War I, the red poppy became a symbol of remembrance for Canadian soldiers and veterans. It commemorates those who sacrificed their lives in pursuit of peace, and acknowledges those who returned to society. Every year at the beginning of November, The Royal Canadian Legion accepts donations from Canadians across the country through their Poppy Campaign to raise money to support veterans and their families.
Even though November 11 provides an annual day of commemoration for our veterans, Canadians today have different ideas of what war is, and what the red poppy represents to them.
The white poppy is a response to the malcontent from today’s civilian society to today’s wars. The white poppy commemorates all victims of war and is a symbol of peace. Its intention is to allow all people who are impacted by war to have support, and to recognize that they too are victims of the violence of war, despite what side of the barrel or blade they are on.
Despite the humble intentions of those who created the white poppy campaign, they created a dialogue of conflict that is not supportive of either party. Individuals who are vocal about the significance of the red poppy claim that the white poppy disrespects those who served, or continue to serve, Canada. Individuals who are vocal about the significance of the white poppy claim that the red poppy promotes the use of war and violence to resolve conflict. Regardless of whatever view these individuals have, they are failing to see point of the poppies and their significance on November 11.
November 11 is a day to commemorate those we have lost to war and violence. It is also difficult for today’s generations to relate and sympathize to our veterans and the severe and precarious nature of war that they experience. Given that Canada has not been involved in a large-scale war in a generation, not as many Canadians are able to identify with the severity and precarious nature of war.
While I, too, have no idea what the violence of war looks like, I know how it changes people. Three generations of men in my family have taken part in war, including the most recent war to end all wars. It is with their contributions and sacrifices in mind that I wear the red poppy, and it does not matter what colour poppy you wear. When you wear a poppy, you support the people they represent, not the political environment, or the governments that are involved in the bureaucracy of war. The poppy should not be used as a political tool to further anybody’s agenda. The poppy is something we use to symbolize that “We Remember” the sacrifice and loss people experienced, and continue to experience, through conflict.