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Why the right to wear a poppy at work needs to be protected

Remembrance Day poppies
Reading Time: 4 minutes

After more than 20 months dealing with COVID-19, the vast majority of Canadians are gradually getting back into the swing of things. There were proper celebrations in many households for Thanksgiving last month and many children, including my son, were happy to go trick-or-treating for Halloween on Sunday.

Unfortunately, several holidays will likely have to undergo certain modifications. Not specifically because of the pandemic, but there is an indirect link to changes in societal behaviour that have occurred on or around this time.

In particular, Remembrance Day.

U.S.-based Whole Foods Market caused a major storm of controversy last year by telling employees in its 14 locations in Canada that they couldn’t wear poppies to work.

According to CBC News’s Kimberley Molina on Nov. 6, 2020, a female employee at Ottawa’s Whole Foods store (who chose to remain nameless, for obvious reasons) said, “I was basically told … if they allowed this one particular cause, then it would open up the door so that they would have to allow or consider allowing other causes.”

The employee continued, “I was in shock, actually. I was appalled. I couldn’t believe it.”

She wasn’t the only one.

Most Canadians considered Whole Foods’ policy to be extremely thoughtless or incredibly idiotic. There were no shades of grey to be found, which explains why the grocery chain abandoned this dumb policy later that day.

The House of Commons voted unanimously to call on all employers to ensure their employees could wear poppies during Remembrance Week. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Whole Foods had made a “silly mistake.”

One of the strongest voices was from Ontario Premier Doug Ford.

“I find it absolutely disgraceful. I find it disgusting,” Ford told the media. “So we’re going to introduce legislation immediately that permits any employee, any employee no matter where you work … to wear a poppy, and making sure that no employer can force someone not to wear a poppy.”

This position is finally coming to fruition.

On Oct. 28, the Ontario government announced it will begin the process to enshrine the right to wear poppies in the workplace during Remembrance Week (Nov. 5 to 11). This led to the introduction of Bill 38, An Act to amend the Remembrance Week Act, 2016.

“Our government is grateful to those in uniform, past and present, who have selflessly dedicated themselves to serving our country and protecting our values,” said Citizenship and Multiculturalism Minister Parm Gill. “They deserve our unwavering respect, support and gratitude. We show that by wearing poppies, helping to ensure our children and grandchildren never forget the sacrifices they have made for us.”

The only exception to this proposed law would be if a poppy posed a “danger or hazard to the health, safety, or welfare of any person.”

The Ontario NDP, Liberals and Greens all support the Progressive Conservative government’s proposal. It’s in first reading and will surely pass with ease.

Nevertheless, it’s unfortunate that this type of law needs to be enshrined in our country.

Poppies have been handed out since 1921. It was the brainchild of Anna Guérin of France, who was inspired by John McCrae’s 1915 poem In Flanders Fields. The Great War Veterans Association, the precursor of the Royal Canadian Legion, considered her proposal during a meeting in Port Arthur (now Thunder Bay), Ont., and adopted it on July 6, 1921.

There wouldn’t have been a Canadian at that time who batted an eye when it came to wearing a poppy. They did it with pride, and saluted the soldiers who defended the nation’s cherished freedoms and liberties during the First World War.

Unfortunately, times have changed.

From the preposterous white poppy debate (designed as a symbol of pacifism) to the Whole Foods debacle, a small albeit vocal number of (mostly) radical progressives are attempting to turn the tables when it comes to Remembrance Day. They want to do away with certain aspects of history, authority and democracy that don’t appeal to their jaded point of view.

Most people on the mainstream right and left have no interest in joining their cause. Alas, some laws need to be enshrined to ensure that important, long-standing traditions are protected.

Ontario has made the right decision. Other provinces will likely follow suit. It’s a shame it has come to this, but there’s no denying it has to be done.

Michael Taube, a Troy Media syndicated columnist and Washington Times contributor, was a speechwriter for former prime minister Stephen Harper. He holds a master’s degree in comparative politics from the London School of Economics. For interview requests, click here.


The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the authors’ alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

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