Unauthorized Canadian Remembrance Day Poppies: Tribute Or Sacrilege?

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Posted: 10 months ago

The poppy, due to its opium content and blood-red flower, is an ancient symbol of sleep and death. In Flanders Fields (1915), a poem by Canadian Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, expresses the idea that although poppies grow above the orderly rows of graves of buried dead soldiers of the First World War, they will not sleep if the living break faith with them. This poem quickly inspired the use of the poppy symbol in many countries for war-related fundraising, and later for fundraising to restore war-ravaged places and rehabilitate soldiers.

November 11, 2022, marks one hundred and one years of the Canadian tradition of buying poppy pins to wear above the heart for Remembrance Day in support of The Royal Canadian Legion's fundraising efforts for veterans and their dependents. The poppy is trademarked by The Royal Canadian Legion to ensure that poppy-themed products are honourable and patriotic, not commercial or political.

This year, the number of unauthorized products reported to The Royal Canadian Legion is nearly 1,600 - almost three times what it was last year.

How do you feel about this, other than the indisputable legality of the trademark?

Clearly, if so many people feel inspired to create Remembrance Day-themed products, there must be some demand for them. Is it sacrilegious that consumers are buying products that make them feel patriotic, without 100% of the proceeds going to the Legion Poppy Trust Fund? Or, is it merely illegal that consumers are finding their own ways to remember and pay tribute to sacrificed lives?

The Royal Canadian Legion forbids the production of poppy-decorated edible items. Since poppy seeds are used in baking, does it make sense to prohibit the cutting and glazing of poppy-shaped red cookies and doughnuts? Yes, it's illegal to sell these items in violation of the trademark, but should The Royal Canadian Legion permit their production if they're not for sale? Remembrance Day is a school holiday, so could it be an occasion for children to learn about war and remembrance through family activities like baking and decorating? Or, is that too disrespectful?

In recognition of the history of Indigenous soldiers in Canada, Indigenous artists have been allowed to make poppy pins with beadwork and sealskin (which is left over from eating seal meat), and to wear them in ceremonial dances. Would it be appropriate for other ethnic communities in Canada to commemorate their veterans with other dance forms, such as bhangra, while wearing poppies?

The Royal Canadian Legion encourages individuals to paint poppies on stones to place on soldiers' graves. On the same web page, it states that the Remembrance Poppy can never be placed where it can be walked on. One might expect that small stones decorated with poppies will eventually get moved accidentally and walked on.

So, what do you think are the uses of the poppy symbol that The Royal Canadian Legion should allow in the spirit of Remembrance Day?


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