Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor news on Monday, November 9, 2020.

It is Sunday afternoon as I write this, and we’re three days away from Remembrance Day on November 11. A long-overdue and overlooked commemoration has also been recently rectified by our government. November 8 has now been marked as Indigenous Remembrance Day. Their contribution was significant and the stories are emerging one after another.

A few days ago you may have heard about the poppy-centered short-lived but powerful storm that surfaced in the news and social media.

Whole Foods forbade their employees to wear the Remembrance Day poppy, but following the above-mentioned ‘storm’, the decision wilted, no pun intended. It was heartening to see how Canadians across the country, our premier included, responded to the initial ban.

Yes, we care about the poppy.

I’ve loved poppies way before I knew of the significance attached to them. Now we have them scattered all over our garden, and not just because my husband is a member of the Canadian Armed Forces, and a veteran, but that’s a big part of it. The poppy’s graceful presence, the ruffled yet delicate appearance – I could not think of a more appropriate symbol to remind us of human life.

I heard someone say that wearing a poppy is a political statement. I argue it is not.

Wearing a poppy does not mean you approve of wars. It means you choose to honour and remember those who fought in wars, those who lost their lives, and you honour those who stand at the ready all across Canada, training and willing to put their lives on the line, should they be asked to do so.

It’s not a political affirmation, but a somber acknowledgement of sacrifice.

Wearing a poppy means you choose to honour and thank our emergency services personnel,  from police officers to firefighters and paramedics, and as of this year, healthcare professionals too. What’s been touted by many as an invisible war, a hoax, has claimed the lives of many unsung heroes and the well-being of so many others. So many are out there fighting it. Let’s not forget or ignore that.

And let’s never debate whether wearing a poppy sends the wrong message. It doesn’t.

It reminds us of sacrifice, and it reminds us to never take things for granted: access to healthcare, safety and yes, peace.  

Our Kamloops community has always made Remembrance Day memorable. Last year and the years prior, large crowds, babies and kids in tow, braved the elements to join the ceremony held at Riverside Park.

Due to the restrictions imposed by our provincial health authority as a response to the covid-19 crisis, this year will see but a small group of 50 people gathering to honour our fallen ones and those who presently serve. The rest of us can join virtually if able to, but meanwhile we can all do this, the simplest of gestures that means so much: wear a poppy.  

The Poppy Campaign is facing a serious challenge this year, like so many worthwhile other causes have since the start of the pandemic. People have stepped up to help and I hope they will again, by donating what they can for poppies.

With every poppy that we buy we support the Royal Canadian Legion, which, as per their own words, ‘exists so that Canada never forgets.’ If you wish to offer further support, please consider putting some of the poppy merchandise that the Legion has available on their website on the Christmas list.

The Legion was founded by veterans to help support veterans, and that is made possible if people care. That so many communities across Canada have their own Legion branch is a testament to the fact that Canadians care.

That’s why a poppy ban based on silly arguments (i.e. ‘not part of the uniform’ and ‘that’s a political statement’) cannot stand. Because we know better.

Wearing a poppy is a humble act of acknowledging sacrifice: of times past, of times present and of times to come. It’s not about fear, or politics. It’s about recognizing that we do not take our liberties for granted.

Lest we forget.