By Anastasia Coulson-Gagnon
Many Canadians are familiar with the traditional red poppy worn to mark Remembrance Day but people may not know the meaning of the white poppy that has been around since 1933.
Vancouver Peace Poppies has been running annual fall campaigns to distribute white peace poppies across Canada since 2008. Unlike the traditional red poppy, worn to honor fallen military members, the goal of the peace poppies is to spread the message: “Remember the fallen, including civilians, and work for peace.”
This year marks 100 years since the end of the First World War on November 11, 1918. The Great War Veteran’s Association in Canada adopted the red poppy as its Flower of Remembrance in 1921. It was in 1933 that the Co-operative Women’s Guild started distributing the white poppy all across Britain. The white poppies became a symbol of peace and urging that war must never happen again.
Toronto Trinity College Chaplain Andrea Budgey is the only official Peace Poppies’ distributor in Toronto. She says she ordered a total of 150 Peace Poppies and has seen the need to order more.
“This year, I’ve ordered many more that I have in the past and they have gone faster than ever,” Budgey said.
But some people feel the white poppy is disrespectful to veterans.
Korean war veteran and Etobicoke Legion member, Vic Sing, does not support the white poppy.
“I believe the white poppy is disrespectful,” Sing said. “A white poppy doesn’t mean anything to me.”
Budgey has strong beliefs towards the message behind the white poppy. Her father was an RAF bomber pilot in the Second World War Two and her mother survived an Allied bombing in Germany.
“After the war, they met,” Budgey said. “The importance of recognizing damage on all sides has and always will be important to me.”
For those reasons, Budgey was quick to defend the white poppies.
“I remember the outcry when white poppies first came out,” Budgey said. “Questions came forward about whether or not this was dissing the military and it’s not. It’s a reminder of all the victims of war, the civilian casualties and the enemy casualties without emphasizing just the military.”
Peace Poppies’ accept donations as does The Royal Canadian Legion. With Peace Poppies’, the money donated goes towards making and shipping the white poppies. Money also goes towards funding peace education work. The donations collected by The Royal Canadian Legion go directly towards supporting veterans and their families.
Sing believes that there is no need to stray from tradition. “The traditional red one has been doing well in raising money and spreading a respectful message for a number of years,” Sing said. “I know change is good but we need change in a different way like more volunteers and more important stuff like that.”