If you’ve been struggling to get your hands on a poppy this November, you’re not alone. After buying multiple Iced Capps and doing a fair amount of grocery shopping over the last few weeks, I’ve only come across one poppy donation box around the city—shout out to the Barrington Street Tim Hortons for both the poppy and the Iced Capp. With Remembrance Day just around the corner, this seemed odd, but I didn’t question it too much.
Having recently moved here I thought maybe the poppy pool was smaller in Halifax than I was used to. But bringing it up to my co-workers at The Coast deepened the suspicion that there are usually more people wearing poppies in Halifax. A quick Google search confirmed there are significantly fewer poppies circulating this year, not only here, but across the country.
The Royal Canadian Legion, which is behind the annual Poppy Campaign, lists plenty of businesses on its site that received poppy donation boxes: BMO, Best Buy Canada, Costco and Tim Hortons, to name a few. However, it announced back in October that it’d be taking a more environmentally friendly approach to this year's campaign, confirming to media that 27,000 poppies were distributed across the country in comparison to last year's 34,000.
Some of the poppies this year are made of biodegradable materials like paper, moss and bamboo. If you got your hands on one of these newly designed red flowers, they also come with the ability to be scanned by your smartphone through the 2022 initiative Poppy Stories. By visiting poppystories.ca you can scan your poppy and read a unique story about a Canadian who fought for our country.
While the new initiative is an interesting way to learn more about our history, it doesn’t address the 21% decrease in the distribution of the physical poppy. That’s where the Legion's third initiative comes into play: Digital poppies.
Canadians can hop onto their computers and smartphones and download a digital poppy at www.mypoppy.ca that they can share across social media platforms. The online version offers the user the ability to donate and support veterans and the site encourages people to use this digital version to compliment their physical poppy. However, if the decrease in the number of traditional poppies is preventing people from encountering them in real life, the call to action seems null.
Nujma Bond, the Legion’s communications manager, told the media that the reason behind that change is an attempt to reach more people. “The various initiatives are a way to engage more Canadians from across generations, to engage younger people in the act of remembrance,” he said. “We hope that when we modernize how we remember, and the materials we use to remember, it will also carry on the tradition of remembrance in Canada."
This isn’t the Legion's first attempt at modernizing the campaign. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it introduced 1,000 boxes with the help of HSBC Bank that allowed people to donate by tapping either their bank cards or cell phones. The same amount of these boxes were distributed this year.
The Legion hasn’t confirmed that the reduction in poppies directly relates to these new initiatives, but pushing the digital poppy along with the decrease in physical ones as a way to “modernize how we remember,” raises some concerns.
Canadians have been wearing poppies on their lapels since 1921 as a way to honour veterans who have served. In a world that is constantly adapting to technology and new trends, the meaning of the poppy and Remembrance Day has, for the most part, remained untouched.
The Legion's subtle shift towards digitizing the campaign leaves us with the question of whether or not a move, even a small one, to the superficial world of social media will lessen the authenticity and the meaning of the poppy and Remembrance Day.
Have you noticed fewer poppies around this year? How do you feel about the Royal Legion modernizing Remembrance Day traditions? Share your thoughts in the comments.