Rothenburger: Poppy politics sensitive business

Mel Rothenburger / Kamloops Daily News
November 8, 2012 01:00 AM

A Member of Parliament gave me a tip about poppies that I used for years. It provided a solution to a vexing problem.

Losing poppies - those little stick pins just don't keep them in your lapel for long - is a fact of life this time of year.

You put one on your coat and you soon discover it's fallen off. You replace it and it's gone, too.

A metal poppy pin with a solid clasp can be purchased as an alternative, but Canadians prefer the good old-fashioned plastic-paper poppy and simply do their best with it. Some even rig a safety pin with duct tape and stick it to the back. (Is there anything duct tape can't fix?)

The MP's answer was simple, yet effective - use a Canada-flag pin to firmly attach the poppy. Problem solved.
Alas, as we now know, fooling with poppies is not allowed. We have Quebec Premier Pauline Marois to thank; her brain slipped a gear and she pinned her poppy with a fleur-de-lis instead of a Maple Leaf.

The Quebec Command of the Royal Canadian Legion was not amused. "Nothing is to be worn inside (the poppy) like a pin - whether it's the Canadian flag or anything," chided provincial president Margot Arsenault.

The Legion's official written position is that the poppy is a "sacred symbol of Remembrance and should not be defaced in any way. No other pin, therefore, should be used to attach it to clothing."

Across the land, Canada-flag pins were quietly removed, and poppies were freed to fall where they may. By the way, it's considered a sign of respect to pick up a lost poppy if you chance upon one.

I agree that certain poppy protocols should be followed, such as wearing it on the correct (left) side. You won't catch Coun. Nancy Bepple making a mistake twice on that one, though she shouldn't feel bad - actress Emma Watson was photographed making the same faux pas.

But is the Legion being over-sensitive on this pinning issue? Maybe Ms. Marois was out of line with her fleur-de-lis, but it seems a stretch to categorize even our national flag as defacement.

Besides which, there's no international standard for what the Remembrance poppy is supposed to look like. In some countries, it has more or fewer petals than ours, is made of different materials, and even comes with leaves.

Every Canadian kid grows up memorizing John McCrae's haunting poem, visualizing poppies springing up in Flanders fields after the devastation of war, symbolizing remembrance and hope for a better world. We know about poppies.

We just didn't know (at least, some didn't), about the pins. It's worth pointing out that the Legion reluctantly allows exceptions to the poppy-wearing code: " It is recognized that the Legion cannot control its form of wear by the public. It is undoubtedly better to wear a poppy with a Canadian flag in the center than not to wear a poppy at all."

I agree with that, too, but you know what? Remembrance Day is about our veterans. And if they want the poppy worn in a certain way, it's OK with me.

So during these days leading up to Remembrance Day, and in all future Novembers, I will gratefully wear a poppy as the Legion wants me to wear it - unembellished and unfastened.

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