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Legion marks 100th anniversary of poppy symbol during campaign launch

Anna Guerin of France is credited with having first proposed the poppy as a symbol
Poppy Drive: Royal Canadian Legion member Marlene Ferguson helps Peggy Lucas with her poppy at the No Frills grocery story in Ponoka Oct. 25, the first day of the annual poppy campaign. Legion members will be at local stores and other venues until Nov. 10 selling poppies. Photo by Jordie Dwyer

Gov. Gen. Mary May Simon received the symbolic first poppy Monday as the Royal Canadian Legion launched this year’s annual national fundraising campaign for veterans ahead of Remembrance Day.

May Simon accepted the poppy from Legion dominion president Bruce Julian during a ceremony at Rideau Hall in which attendees noted that this year also marks the 100th anniversary of the poppy having been adopted as a symbol of remembrance.

Anna Guerin of France is credited with having first proposed the poppy as a symbol of the horrible costs and sacrifices of war in the aftermath of the First World War.

Guerin drew inspiration from In Flanders Fields, the moving poem written during the war by lieutenant-colonel John McCrae and which continues to be read at Remembrance Day ceremonies across Canada and other parts of the world each year.

The Great War Veterans’ Association of Canada officially adopted the poppy symbol in 1921, and the iconic flower has been worn in the weeks leading up to the annual ceremony ever since.

Donations collected during the fundraising campaign are used to support various Legion programs for veterans, including emergency food and shelter as well as bursaries, disaster relief and remembrance activities.

This year marks the second Remembrance Day since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Legion has indicated it expects another year of smaller-than-usual crowds on Nov. 11.

Legion grand president Larry Murray nonetheless underscored the importance of Canadians paying respects to the sacrifices of those who fought and died defending the country and its values and principles.

“In the second pandemic year, remembrance reminds us that our nation has been through even more challenging times,” he said.

“Canadians persevered then, and we will now. Whether at war or during peace support operations, Canada’s veterans and fallen heroes alike can take comfort in our remembrance.”

—The Canadian Press