Canada Kicks Ass

Veterans fight back over poppy backlash
Date: Thursday, November 06 2003
Topic: Canadian Politics

A small but growing number of businesses across Canada are turning up their noses at Remembrance Day poppies, sweeping the Royal Canadian Legion's poppy sales boxes from their counters or even shooing veterans off their property.

And Mary Ann Burdett, chairwoman of this year's poppy campaign, said that makes her sad.
"It seems to be happening more often," she said in an interview from her home in Terrace, B.C. "We've run into it now and then over the years -- never very many, but a few -- that don't understand the importance of the poppy campaign."
Every year, in the weeks leading up to Remembrance Day, thousands of veterans and legion volunteers brave inclement weather to sell red-and-black plastic poppy pins.
Every year, a handful of stores or public places refuse to allow the poppy sales on their premises.
And every year, Ms. Burdett said, they learn the hard way about the dangers of tangling with survivors of two world wars and the Korean War.
"Generally, when it becomes well known, there is a reversal in their attitudes," she said, diplomatically. "The public has been very supportive of the legion in situations like this -- very much so."

Pier 1 Imports/Canada is still refusing to permit Poppy sales in their stores. You can complain to them by filling out an online e-mail form here or telephone them by calling (800) 245-4595.

Last year, a veteran was asked to leave a Sudbury Home Depot store for standing outside in the cold selling poppies.
The storm of outrage that ensued after 71-year-old Ken Cook was told he could not distribute poppies outside the hardware superstore convinced Home Depot to change its policy and allow poppy sales boxes at front cash desks.
In 2001, public libraries in Pickering, Ont., just outside Toronto, set off a six-day uproar after banning poppy sales from their five branches. The library board reversed the decision after enduring weeks of pro-veteran protests.
In Montreal, an IKEA furniture store apologized last month after initially barring veterans from a suburban outlet.
Media reports about a number of CIBC branches refusing poppies prompted the bank's head office to issue a statement yesterday saying: "CIBC will permit poppy fundraising inside our branches. CIBC has been a strong supporter of many organizations across Canada including those that assist veterans."

However, there are still some holdouts this year, including Pier 1 Imports/Canada. The U.S.-based company has said its international policy is to collect only for two charities -- UNICEF and a breast cancer foundation.
"We like to be involved in bigger, united campaigns, spokesman Jim Waechter told the Calgary Herald. "I agree, veterans are a valuable piece of our heritage, but we promote consistency across all our stores. If someone comes into one store and wants to drop off a charity box, we say no. We say no to all of them, not just the poppy fund."
Dozens of retired soldiers attending a veteran associations conference in Toronto yesterday talked angrily about stores that had refused to allow the enduring symbols of their wartime sacrifice to be sold on their premises, threatening boycotts and letters.

"These people are living the life that we fought for when we risked our lives for democracy," said Edward Carter-Edwards, who spent a year in German prison camps during the Second World War after being shot down over France.
"It's deplorable. To turn their backs now, 50 years later, on the very people who gave them their freedom -- it's a disgrace."

"I can't find words to explain such a stupid thing," said Art Adams, an air force veteran who was stationed in Burma during the Second World War.
"I just don't understand the thinking. Is their point that they are tired of hearing about veterans? Is having a box to sell poppies there too much to ask?"

"It seems that many of the stores that do have this happen, especially large chains, are internationally owned and just don't understand ... the sanctity of the poppy campaign," Ms. Burdett said. "It is symbolic of everything that Canada stands for -- for our freedoms, for us to be allowed to have companies like this.... The poppy is our way of thanking the veterans for the privilege of living here and everything that we enjoy in Canada."

Rey Pagtakhan, the Minister of Veterans Affairs, said it was disappointing when stores refuse to allow poppy sales.
This year, the legion has distributed more than 20 million poppies, an increase over last year's 19 million.
In 1997, the poppy campaign raised $10.2-million; in 2000 -- the last year for which sales figures have been tabulated -- poppy sales brought in $12.3-million.
Money collected for the poppies is used to support needy veterans and their families.
© Copyright 2003 National Post
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