Lt.-Gov. David C. Onley remembers when he made his first poppy in Aaron Park Public School.
“It was in one of my classes,” Onley said. “We had to cut them out of construction paper and glue them and draw a picture. It brings back memories.”
Now, as the lieutenant-governor of Ontario, Onley is annually presented with the first poppy of the Ontario Poppy Campaign. Bruce Julian, vice president of the Ontario provincial command of the Royal Canadian Legion, presented Onley with the poppy on Oct. 23 at Queen’s Park.
“To know that you’re receiving it on behalf of all the people in Ontario, in the name of the Queen from veterans themselves or spouses of veterans who are in the Royal Canadian Legion is a deeply moving experience,” he said.
Since the First World War, the poppy has symbolized the remembrance of men and women in the Canadian Forces and raises awareness of their services and sacrifices. Over 19 million poppies are distributed across the country annually.
Onley said it’s important to wear a new poppy each year.
“Some people will keep their poppy from the previous year. The idea is to donate to the poppy fund, which provides funds for veterans,” he said. “It is not a source of income for the legion. It is a tangible way financially of making a donation to someone who has served and perhaps has fallen on hard times.”
Onley said Remembrance Day should be kept an unofficial holiday.
“Remembrance Day brings back memories right as a small child in the 1950s in school ceremonies. Our teacher was very emotionally moved by the ceremony going on. It wasn’t until years later as an adult that I realized she had lived through World War Two,” he said. “It was one of the reasons why I’m in favour and why I think it’s a good idea not to have an official holiday, so that children are in school to participate in Remembrance Day ceremonies.”
Onley said the day “serves on an annual basis to remind us that the values and freedoms we have here in Canada didn’t happen in Canada, but were the result of tens of thousands of individuals right through Canada’s history.”
He believes Remembrance Day ceremonies held across the country are important, especially for veterans.
“For them it’s more than a ceremony – it’s a series of personal remembrances.”