The Remembrance Day poppy story – Gord Turner column

Bi-weekly column from Castlegar city councillor and former Selkirk prof Gord Turner.

When I was a youngster and followed the local militia to the cenotaph on a cold November day, I noticed for the first time people wearing red flowers called poppies. In subsequent years, I saw Legion members dispensing poppies on street corners and at store fronts.

In school on the last day ahead of November 11th, our teachers told us stories about World War I and World War II.  Always the school ceremonies ended with a recital of Canadian John McCrae’s “In Flanders Fields”.  Written at the Flanders battlefield and published in Punch magazine on December 8, 1915, the poem spoke of poppies “blow[ing] between the crosses”.

Not long after the end of World War I, poppies became a symbol for those who had fallen in warfare. Wearing a red poppy in early November is a visual link and a sign of respect for those who have given their lives in battle.  It links back to the first World War, but it is now used for remembrance of anyone who has been at war at any time since.

The poppy has stood as a “symbol of collective reminiscence” in Canada since 1921.  Apparently, an American professor named Moina Michael read “In Flanders Fields” in 1918 and immediately vowed always to wear a red poppy as a sign of remembrance of those who died in war. The wearing of a poppy began to spread after that.

In 1920, Madame Guerin in France learned of the custom and decided to use handmade poppies to raise money for children in war-torn areas of her country. Following her example, the Great War Veterans’ Association of Canada (pre Canadian Legion) officially adopted the poppy for remembrance purposes on July 5, 1921.

The plastic poppy with pin was initially an exact copy of the red Flanders corn poppies with their black centres.  In the late 20th Century, the poppy centre was switched to green. However, in 2002, the centre was changed back to black to once again match the colours of the Belgium poppies.

A red poppy is usually worn from the last Friday in October to the end of the day on November 11.  The poppy is always worn on the left breast closest to the heart or on the left lapel of jackets. It is often pinned onto wreaths at the cenotaph and left there as a token of respect.

There has been a bit of confusion in recent years about what the poppy symbolizes.  Some think the red colour is associated with the blood of fallen soldiers, and thus they refer to the poppy as a symbol of warfare. Though the “blood” association is definitely present, that does not mean the poppy is tied in with the idea of war itself.  Many people think of the poppy as an emblem to help us reflect on peace and the future of humans in a gentler world.

For those who are not comfortable with the “blood” association of the poppy, a 21st Century development has been the white poppy.  Taking the red out of the poppy allows pacifists and others who oppose war to still wear the poppy during the Remembrance Day period. They believe that the white poppy speaks of innocence and purity and peace.

The annual poppy campaign is a major source of funding for the Royal Canadian Legion.  It uses the funds to ensure veterans, their dependents, and related memorials are cared for and treated with respect. This organization of some 300,000 people contributes to seniors, cadets, scouts, guides, and members of the RCMP and their families.

Lest we forget, the Legion’s work in the community and the country is immense, and it began with the recognition of the poppy as an emblem of remembrance.



Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The trial of Harry Richardson began Monday at the Nelson courthouse. File photo
Trial of man accused of shooting RCMP officer near Argenta in 2019 begins

Harry Richardson is facing five charges in a Nelson courtroom

Zaudanawng “Jay-Dan” Maran in his Creston home. Hanging on the wall behind him is a logo of Kachin’s Manaw festival. Photo: Aaron Hemens
From Myanmar to Creston: The story of a refugee

In October 2007, Zaudanawng “Jay-Dan” Maran and his friends encountered a woman being sexually assaulted by two Myanmar soldiers.

Gerald Cordeiro of Kalesnikoff Lumber Ltd. says the company is looking for a non-profit organization to take over and run its proposed agroforestry project. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
Logging company proposes agroforestry project for Nelson area

Kalesnikoff Lumber is floating the idea of growing trees in conjunction with food crops

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin makes preparations at Toronto’s mass vaccination clinic, Jan. 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
3 deaths, 234 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health over the weekend

One death connected to outbreak at Kamloops’ Royal Inland Hospital, where 20 patients and 28 staff have tested positive

Crews with Discovery Channel film as an Aggressive Towing driver moves a Grumman S2F Tracker aircraft around a 90-degree turn from its compound and onto the road on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. It was the “most difficult” part of the move for the airplane, one organizer said. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Vintage military plane gets towed from Chilliwack to Greater Victoria

Grumman CP-121 Tracker’s eventual home the British Columbia Aviation Museum on Vancouver Island

Kamloops This Week.
48 COVID-19 cases and one death associated with outbreak at Kamloops hospital

One of the 20 patients infected has died, meanwhile 28 staff with COVID-19 are isolating at home

Rolling seven-day average of cases by B.C. health authority to Jan. 21. Fraser Health in purple, Vancouver Coastal red, Interior Health orange, Northern Health green and Vancouver Island blue. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
2nd COVID vaccine doses on hold as B.C. delivery delayed again

New COVID-19 cases slowing in Fraser Health region

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. Two more cases of the COVID-19 strain first identified in South Africa have been diagnosed in British Columbia, bringing the total to three as of Jan. 16.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. now has three cases of South African COVID-19 variant, six of U.K. strain

Both variants are thought to spread faster than earlier strains

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker in an undated photo from social media. The couple has been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Great Canadian Gaming CEO resigns after being accused of sneaking into Yukon for vaccine

Rod Baker and Ekaterina Baker were charged with two CEMA violations each

Police discovered a makeshift nightclub in a Vancouver apartment on Jan. 23, 2021, and say it wasn’t the first time this month officers have been called to the unit over social gathering concerns. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Doorman of makeshift ‘booze-can’ in Vancouver apartment fined; police look to court order

This marks the fourth complaint about social gatherings inside the apartment in January

A Kelowna couple welcomed their Nooner baby in December. (Flytographer)
Kelowna couple welcomes baby girl from Hotel Zed Nooner campaign

Nicole and Alex will now have 18 years of free stays at the hotel

Kyrell Sopotyk was drafted by the Kamloops Blazers in 2016 and played two seasons with the Western Hockey League club. (Photograph By ALLEN DOUGLAS/KTW)
Kamloops Blazer paralyzed in snowboarding accident sparks fundraiser for family

As of Jan. 24, more than $68,000 had been raised to help Kamloops Blazers’ forward Kyrell Sopotyk

Most Read