Red poppies are usually distributed the last week of October in preparation for Remembrance Day. With the recent shooting in Ottawa though, there were calls for poppies to be sold earlier. When the poppies did finally go on sale, the demand was so great that it led to a national poppy shortage.
But there is another poppy that has done well in recent years: the white peace poppy. It is a newer concept in Canada, but it first appeared in Britain in 1933.
“They came up with the white poppy to say that war was not the answer,” white poppy distributor, Teresa Gagné, said. “And since then we get poppies from Britain and distribute them in Canada.”
The white poppies have the word peace in the centre of it and it has a special meaning to those who wear and distribute them.
“The main reason is to commemorate the civilian victims of war. Nowadays in contemporary wars, civilians are said to make up 85 to 90 per cent of the victims of war,” Gagné said. “It is really important that for Nov. 11th we remember all the victims and all the consequences of war.”
Not everyone is embracing these new poppies. Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino said that white poppies were “an offensive attempt to politicize Remembrance Day.”
Andrea Budgey is the Chaplin at Trinity College chapel at the University of Toronto, which is one of three white poppies distributors in Toronto. Budgey said the white poppy was never meant to offend anyone and that there should be more information available on it.
“I understand that there are people who take it personally as an insult, and really it isn’t intended that way,” Budgey said. “I think there needs to be a bit more conversation available. I’ve had lots of inquires, people come in to pick up a few partly because of the situation we have found ourselves in.”
With two choices of poppies to wear on Remembrance Day, which one should be worn?
“For anyone who is comfortable, I think it’s a good idea to wear both the red and white poppies together,” Gagné said.
For now, the white poppy is still slowly gaining in popularity.
“They don’t come in huge orders in Canada unless you order straight from Britain,” Budgey said. “I have had calls from as far as Barrie and Guelph, asking if I can send them some and I will probably run out soon.”
What will you wear, red or white? Or both?