The Royal Canadian Legion is hoping its annual poppy campaign regains a sense of normalcy this year as fewer pandemic restrictions are in place across the country.
In the lead-up to Remembrance Day, the organization says it will have more than 34,000 traditional poppy boxes at locations across Canada, where people can donate cash and receive a poppy pin — roughly 9,000 more boxes than last year.
For the second year in a row, the organization will also have boxes that can accept payments from tap-enabled devices or cards. The legion said it will have 1,000 of those electronic boxes this year, compared to 250 last year.
Canadians can also make a donation towards the campaign at mypoppy.ca, where they can create a digital poppy, add a customized commemoration and share it on social media.
Nujma Bond, communications manager for the legion’s national headquarters, said there will likely be a greater number of people physically present with donation boxes this year — similar to pre-pandemic times — thanks to looser COVID-19 measures.
“We are not only coming out with a greater number of initiatives, but we are also facing fewer … local health restrictions,” said Bond. “So it’s allowing us to get back to a semblance of normalcy in terms of the poppy campaign itself.”
Volunteers handing out poppies are still required to wear masks, stay distanced, and be vaccinated against COVID-19, Bond noted.
The legion said it raises about $20 million from its poppy campaign each year, with the funds going directly toward supporting veterans, their families and communities.
While the organization doesn’t have final figures for the amount raised from last year’s poppy campaign, Bond said the legion felt there was an increase in support “both figuratively and literally” for veterans in 2020 despite the restrictions brought on by the pandemic.
She said she expects a similar show of support from Canadians this year.
“We found last year, as I’m sure it will happen this year, that there was a tremendous show of remembrance and support across the country, despite the pandemic,” said Bond.
Veteran Mike Turner is among those organizing poppy campaign efforts at the Royal Canadian Legion’s East Toronto branch.
Turner said while there are fewer people handing out poppies from his branch this year compared to pre-pandemic times, they still have the same mission – to raise money to support veterans and veteran-assistance programs.
“I have personally seen and given finances to veterans, and seeing the smile on their face when they need assistance and they’re getting it, it’s worth its weight in gold,” said the 51-year-old.
This year’s poppy campaign coincides with the 100th anniversary of the poppy as a symbol of remembrance in Canada.
Bond said the Royal Canadian Legion is marking the anniversary with a number of initiatives. Those include an online offering of commemorative poppy pins that replicate the original 1921 lapel pin, as well as 100 limited-edition pieces of digital artwork meant to preserve the memory of 118,000 fallen Canadian soldiers dating back to 1812.
Other organizations are also marking the 100th anniversary of the poppy.
Canada Post has released a stamp to immortalize the crimson flower and honour the thousands of Canadians who have died in service to their country, while the Royal Canadian Mint has released a commemorative poppy coin.
Numerous Canadian landmarks will be lit up during the poppy campaign period and on Nov. 11 as well.
“People will still have the ability to remember,” Bond said, “despite the pandemic that is still underway.”
—Noushin Ziafati, The Canadian Press