British Columbia

Handmade Remembrance Day poppies proudly worn by aboriginal veterans

When navy veteran Joy Ward-Dockrey attends Remembrance Day ceremonies in Surrey, B.C., on Wednesday, she plans to proudly wear two poppies to show her respect.

'It is something we do for ourselves as aboriginal people,' says veteran Joy Ward-Dockrey

Veteran Joy Ward-Dockrey, who is Cree, says handmade beaded or woven poppies created and worn by some First Nation and Metis people are an important symbol. (Source: Gabriel Dumont Institute )

When navy veteran Joy Ward-Dockrey attends Remembrance Day ceremonies in Surrey, B.C., on Wednesday, she plans to proudly wear two poppies to show her respect.

One will be the traditional red-and-black plastic flower made for the Royal Canadian Legion. The other will be a similarly coloured beaded poppy by an aboriginal artisan to mark Ward-Dockrey's service as an aboriginal veteran.

Ward-Dockrey, who is Cree, says such handmade beaded or woven poppies worn by some First Nation and Metis people are an important symbol.

"They come from the heart of our people," said Ward-Dockrey, an official with the Canadian Aboriginal Veterans and Serving Members Association.

"We are not trying to stand out and say we are better. It is something we do for ourselves as aboriginal people to respect what happened to us and our healing journey."

The federal government says more than 7,000 aboriginal soldiers served in the First and Second World Wars and the Korean War, along with an unknown number of Inuit, Metis and non-status native Canadians.

[These poppies] come from the heart of our people- Aboriginal navy veteran Joy Ward-Dockrey

Since then, aboriginal Canadians have served in Canada's Armed Forces in peace time, during overseas peacekeeping missions and in conflicts such as Afghanistan.

The poppy is an international symbol of remembrance that was inspired by the poem "In Flanders Fields" written in 1915 by Lt.-Col. John McCrae, a Canadian surgeon who served in Belgium and France. He died later in the war.

The Royal Canadian Legion website says it was granted trademark copyright of the poppy symbol in Canada in 1948.

The organization is responsible for making poppies available across the country every year and uses donations to help veterans and their families. About 19 million plastic poppies were distributed last year. 

Officials were not available for comment on the handmade poppies, but have suggested to other media that they are not a problem as long as they are not manufactured for commercial purposes.

'The intent is perfect'

Richard Blackwolf, president of the Canadian Aboriginal Veterans, said the handmade poppies are not mass-produced. 

Blackwolf, who is Metis and served in the navy, said artists or groups have used small donations for such poppies to help aboriginal veterans.

The handmade poppies are so beautiful and distinct that people come up to veterans to ask about them or how they can get one, he said.

"I am always proud to wear the beaded poppies and I get many compliments on them. 

"They are something that is unique to the people who make them. The intent is perfect, because it is of the people, for the people, by the people."

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