The white poppy campaign doesn’t compete with red poppies but seeks to raise awareness of non-violent conflict resolution

by Paul MacNeill, publisher, Eastern Graphic

Much is being made about a white poppy campaign initiated by the Island Peace Committee.

Since the story first appeared hundreds of comments have been posted on news sites. The vast majority view the white poppy as a stunt and an insult to the symbolism of the traditional red poppy.

It is neither. 

The peace committee started the white poppy campaign several years ago. It in no way competes with the sale of red poppies. Its goal is to raise awareness of non-violent conflict resolution. The red poppy is a powerful symbol of remembrance of the sacrifice by Canadian soldiers primarily in the First and Second World War.

To put the red poppy in context, there are some who believe it should be an exclusive symbol of the two world wars and should not be associated with our current military campaign in Afghanistan, which only proves that the poppy is a different thing to different people. As a society we should revere and honour any soldier killed in action, regardless of where the death occurred.

Wars are fought for freedom. And whether we agree or not a defining pillar of that freedom is the privilege to offer differing views or perspectives. That is what the Island Peace Committee is doing. And it is doing so in a manner that is respectful of our veterans.

The white poppy brouhaha is symbolic of a greater issue – our collective laziness. It is far easier to lambaste a white poppy campaign than it is to tackle the serious issues facing Canadian veterans.

Where is the moral outrage when Legions on PEI are forced to close their doors?

Where is the moral outrage when Legions must rely on revenue from highly addictive VLT machines just to stay afloat?

Where is the moral outrage when senior bureaucracy within the Department of Veterans Affairs rifles the personal medical files of Canadian veterans to score political points?

Where is the outrage when the same department makes policy decisions with the sole purpose of saving $40 million annually by screwing veterans out of rightful financial benefits?

Where is the outrage when the national office of the Royal Canadian Legion refuses to support a veteran’s day of protest and barred any protest from taking place at Legions across the country? And how many of us stood shoulder to shoulder with veterans on their day of protest? Not too damn many, myself included.

These are all far greater issues than a white poppy. Remembrance Day is more than the few weeks running up November 11. It is more than the day. Our veterans need our support 365 days a year, regardless of whether it’s an aging Second World War veteran or a 20-something Afghanistan vet with post traumatic stress syndrome.

Paul MacNeill, editor Eastern Graphic

Paul MacNeill, editor Eastern Graphic

They fought without question and deserve more from us than tokenism.

Paul MacNeill is Publisher of Island Press Limited. He can be contacted at paul@peicanada.com