The White Poppy and Tim Cook on Canada's War Leaders


Sunday is Remembrance Day, and we'll mark that event by hearing from an historian who's just written a book about Canada's war leaders. We'll also examine a conflict between symbols marking November 11... the red poppy versus the white poppy.

Part Three of The Current - Friday Host Jim Brown in Calgary

Canada's War Leaders - Military Historian Tim Cook

We started this segment with a clip from Prime Minister William Lyon MacKenzie King in September, 1939. Canadians who'd faced guns just two decades prior knew all about destruction and struggle. And while few would guess at the scale of what was about to unfold, their eyes were wide open. 

When war is declared, a citizen's fate is intimately tied to a government's actions. And the person ultimately responsible is the Prime Minister.

Award-winning military historian Tim Cook's new book Warlords: Borden, Mackenzie King, and Canada's World War takes a hard look at leadership in time of stress and bloodshed.  And Tim Cook was in our Ottawa studio.

The White Poppy - Debate

While this country has some powerful symbols, few have the burning intensity of the scarlet flowers stuck to Canadian lapels at this time of year.  People who've never heard a shot fired in anger or sacrificed much of anything often get emotional at the sight of the red poppy. 

We played a clip from a White Poppy Remembrance Day ceremony in Ottawa last year. The white poppy is meant to recall civilian casualties of war and emphasize a commitment to peace that proponents say is missing from traditional Remembrance Day activities. 

The Royal Canadian Legion feels if those things are missing from remembrance day celebrations, it isn't the fault of the red poppy.  It's threatened to sue over copyright infringement.

Well, one of the voices we heard at that event was Heather Menzies. She is a member of Canadian Voice of Women For Peace and an adjunct professor of Canadian Studies at Carleton University. And she joined me from Ottawa.

We also heard from Joanne Henderson, the Poppy fund coordinator for the B.C. Yukon Command of the Royal Canadian Legion.

Other segments from today's show: