This year marks the 100th anniversary of the poppy as a symbol of remembrance in Canada.
Since 1921, Canadians have worn the bright red flower over our hearts during the Remembrance period (officially the last Friday of October through Nov. 11) as a symbol of our vow to never forget the sacrifices made.
The poppy is reminder of all that we owe to the more than more than 2.3 million Canadians who have served in this country’s military during times of war, conflict and peace, and particularly those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Sales of the poppy through the Royal Canadian Legion raise about $20 million each year for critical programs that support veterans, their families, caregivers and their communities.
At the end of World War I, Madame Anna Guérin of France led the charge to distribute poppy pins on Armistice Day as a way to raise money for veterans and to remember those who had given their lives. She invited France’s countries to take part and soon fabric pins were found on Canadian lapels in November.
The connection to Canada is strong. Guérin was inspired by the chilling poem In Flanders Fields, written by Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae of Guelph in 1915 that commemorated the thick, blood-red poppies growing over the graves of soldiers. McCrae, a medical officer, wrote his poem after the death of a fellow soldier.
This will be the second year in which traditional Remembrance Day ceremonies are affected by the pandemic. Most events will be invitation-only to keep crowds to a safe level. Many ceremonies will be livestreamed.
As well, the Royal Canadian Legion is asking the public to pay their respects virtually for the national ceremony being held in Ottawa.
But there are many ways in which we can mark Remembrance Day. Buy a poppy. Wear a poppy. Watch a livestream ceremony. Mark two minutes of silence at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11.
And in this centenary year of the poppy, Canadians are invited to honour the veterans in their lives with photos and words in the Legion’s Gallery of Remembrance. There, hundreds have shared moving stories of courage, love, pride and loss. I urge you to read the beautiful posts and share your story if you have one.
They are a reminder of all reasons Canadians have been proud to wear poppies for 100 years.