Remembrance Day traditions will look a little different this year for Royal Canadian Legion Branch 599 in West Ferris.
Meredith Park, Poppy Chair for the branch, says that Legion members have set up a table at the North Bay Mall for people to pick up poppies and give donations.
“It gets to be very onerous at times,” Park said. “We have to wear a mask, we’re supposed to wear gloves and we’re supposed to hand the poppies out with tongs.”
In addition to the table at the mall, Park says that the Legion has provided businesses in West Ferris with poppy boxes to also collect donations.
On top of the difficulties brought on by the pandemic, Park also worries that the significance of the poppy is being lost.
“It’s actually disheartening sometimes. You go into some businesses to put a poppy box in and you have to explain to them what the poppy is, what the fund is. People nowadays have forgotten what’s happened. We in North America are not touched by the conflicts in other parts of the world,” he observed.
For Legion branches like 599, the poppy fundraiser is the largest contributor to the Poppy Fund, which is reserved for any veteran who needs financial assistance.
“It’s the only time of year really to raise money for the Poppy Fund,” Park explained. “Any veteran who is passing through town or in town who needs assistance can access the Poppy Fund.”
The history of the poppy can be traced back to the Napoleonic War in the 19th century, according to the Royal Canadian Legion. The red flowers were seen in full bloom in Flanders, France following the war, which was also observed in World War I by Medical Officer John McCrae who penned the famous “In Flanders Fields” poem. The poppy became widely adopted in Canada in 1921 as a symbol to honour fallen soldiers.
On November 11, the Legion will be holding an intimate, invite-only ceremony for members and veterans to attend, with video being taken and posted to social media.