Having never seen anyone wearing a white poppy, I confess the entire movement flew below my radar until a couple of days ago. On Nov. 6, Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino publicly stated wearing a white poppy was “an offensive attempt to politicize Remembrance Day”. Apparently Fantino saw red when the Rideau Institute in Ottawa began handing out white poppies with the slogan “I remember for peace”.
Attempting to get to the bottom of the red/white poppy controversy, I started to dig. Wikipedia claims the movement began in the UK, 1926 when a pacifist member of the No More War Movement suggested the centre of the traditional red poppy be imprinted with “No More War”. Upping the ante of red poppies – not in disrespect of war vets, rather as a reminder to end all wars. Seems reasonable – I highly doubt any member of that pacifist movement escaped personal loss. Just as I doubt their message was intended as anything other than a plea to stop the insanity of senseless slaughter.
In 2006, Canada created the New Veterans Charter. Stephen Harper boldly announced …
“In future, when our servicemen and women leave our military family, they can rest assured the Government will help them and their families’ transition to civilian life. Our troops’ commitment and service to Canada entitles them to the very best treatment possible. This Charter is but a first step towards according Canadian veterans the respect and support they deserve.”
Last year the Harper government closed nine Veterans Affairs offices – the government justified closures with among other things, reasoning that Canada’s veteran population is declining. Advocates for Canadian vets insist Harper’s hypocrisy trivializes everything serving ones country stands for. Statistics on veteran suicide, abysmal services and veterans transition programs – of little consequence to Harper’s Canada. Reneging on fair compensation, or making the arduous process of fighting for benefits so convoluted vets give up in despair – nothing short of an appalling reflection of Harper’s disrespect.
Back to red poppy white.
Decades of red poppied lapels tell brave soldiers their sacrifice mattered. I believe Remembrance Day should respect the sanctity of tradition by staying red. That said – the following day, and every day after that up until the next Remembrance Day – each and every one of us should wear a white poppy. A white poppy to symbolize our support for despicable treatment of veterans – not just in Canada, but in every nation that claims military service has value.