Keep politics out of Nov. 11

This year, thousands of Canadians will wear a red poppy up to and during Nov. 11. To them, the poppy symbolizes our commitment as a country to remember and respect the sacrifices made by our veterans, stretching back to our involvement in the First World War. As our community members flock to Remembrance Day ceremonies at local schools and community centres across the country, many Canadians will take the time to think about their relatives and friends who have been involved in this country’s past military endeavours. Many will also take the time to donate to their local Canadian legion and pick up a red poppy in the process.

In the eyes of organizations across the country, such as the Ottawa White Poppy Coalition, the Canadians who do this will have missed an important message; wearing a red poppy isn’t good enough anymore. That’s right, that iconic red poppy you wear over your heart to mourn the loss and sacrifice of our veterans is not doing enough to promote peace. To them the red poppy somehow romanticizes war, while only the white poppy truly advocates peace.

Groups across the country have been promoting white poppies for years. One such group, the Ottawa White Poppy Coalition, seeks to promote peace by remembering not only military, but the civilian casualties of war as well.

There have also been local initiatives in the Kitchener-Waterloo area to promote white poppies. Last year in Waterloo man started a Facebook group that actively encouraged people to paint their poppies white, with similar objectives to the Ottawa White Poppy Coalition. While neither group takes donations when handing out poppies, that’s not the point. For over 80 years Remembrance Day has been Canada’s day to remember those men and women who have died on behalf of Canada in conflicts around the world. I see no reason to belittle the one day of the year we take solely to remember members of our military killed in war, purely to satisfy those people pushing for the day to be more politically correct.

Amongst these organizations there is a common belief that to simply remember is not good enough. People must actively lobby their government to stop war abroad as it is never a means of securing peace. This is a ridiculous notion, as it was not the strength of our democratic convictions that defeated the Nazis, but rather the collective strength of the millions that were involved on the battlefields of Europe, in the skies above Britain and in the Atlantic.

Of these young men and women 45,400 Canadians with distinct lives and families never made it home. It is to them and to the more than 100,000 Canadians that have died in military missions overseas in the history of our country that we have dedicated Remembrance Day. The red poppy, a profound symbol of that remembrance, has had it contributions going to assisting veterans in Canada since 1921.

Some of our veterans, especially those in the Canadian Merchant Navy in the Second World War, have never received a pension or any compensation for their efforts. It is these poppies that provide them and their spouses with support that they need like shelter, food, fuel, clothing, prescription medicine and transportation. These funds benefit the local community as well. In 2008, the local KW poppy fund gave $93,276 to local area hospitals. While painting a red poppy white does not diminish the amount donated to local charities, it does use a symbol of support for our veterans as a means to promote a political agenda. Let’s leave Remembrance Day alone and have Sept. 21, the International Day of Peace, as the special day to promote peace internationally each year.

Let’s stop political correctness from destroying the meaning behind this iconic western symbol. Please take the time this week to wear a red poppy and support our local veterans.

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