With Remembrance Day coming up, several university students in Ottawa, along with the Rideau Institute, plan on handing out white poppies as an alternative to the red poppies we wear to commemorate the day. Promoting his pacifist ideology, Celyn Dufay of the University of Ottawa claims that the red poppy celebrates war. According to Dufay, rather than doing this, “Young people . . . want to work for peace.”
Dufay and the Rideau Institute are getting confused as to what the red poppy really means. Bill Maxwell, secretary of the Royal Canadian Legion’s poppy remembrance committee, is correct when he says that the poppy is “a symbol of sacrifice.” It’s also a symbol of peace.
It is a way to honour the numerous Canadian soldiers who sacrificed their lives for that peace. Conservative MP Erin O’Toole is correct in saying, “to run a simultaneous (white poppy) campaign that really detracts from the day I think is not only inappropriate, it actually undermines the message.”
The irony in this situation is that the red poppy symbolizes the veterans who sacrificed their lives to allow Canadians like Dufay liberty enough to distribute this message countering it. White poppies use and insult the freedom that soldiers fought and died for.
However shocking this is, there are positive points to take from it. Sure, these white poppy protesters may be acting grossly ignorant, but they also bring our attention to the issue of the poppy’s true meaning. If our beliefs are left dormant for too long, we act simply out of habit without really thinking about or understanding them; we lose the spirit of these actions. They become dead dogma.
The introduction of this opposing view forces us to think about why we wear red poppies on Remembrance Day in the first place. The very astute philosopher John Stuart Mill says that dissent, even if mis-guided, keeps the truth against which it dissents alive. In light of this, opposing opinions should never be suppressed.
Even if they may seem morally wrong, activist organizations like the Rideau Institute remind us of why we do what we do: they invigorate our emotions of remembrance and gratitude for our Canadian soldiers, lest we forget.