Sealskin poppies spark controversy in Iqaluit

Francine Picard, who moved to Iqaluit last year, has been making sealskin poppies and selling them for $20 each — money she says covers her time and materials.

Sealskin poppy controversy

10 years ago
Duration 2:36
An Iqaluit resident has been making sealskin poppies for Remembrance Day and pocketing the profits.

An Iqaluit-based artist has stirred up some controversy by creating and selling poppies made of sealskin.

Francine Picard, who moved to Iqaluit last year, has been making sealskin poppies and selling them for $20 each — money she says covers her time and materials.

"I don't feel guilty about it," she said. "To me, it's a work of art. It doesn't stop people from donating — often I donate, but don't take a poppy."

She says she also makes them to create support for Canada's seal hunt.

"At the same time, I'm promoting seal hunting. People rely on the seal hunt, and now that some places are boycotting it... there are people here in Iqaluit, and I imagine other places also, that rely on that money and they're struggling because of the boycott," she said in French.

The sealskin poppies are not sitting well with some people in Iqaluit. 

"Claiming to promote the sealskin hunt by selling poppies for profit really distracts from what Remembrance Day is about," said Janet Brewster. "It's a disrespectful distraction." 

Not even Inuit seal hunt advocates support the use of the poppies to promote the seal hunt cause. 

"I'm hoping the whole issue stays focused on veterans and the cause of the poppy," said Karliin Aariak. "It's Remembrance Day. Let's try to focus on that." 

The Royal Canadian Legion says it doesn't mind Northerners symbolizing remembrance by creating their own poppies, but it doesn't like having its fundraising efforts undercut. Poppy sales raise $14 million annually for the Legion, money that goes to veterans. 

"It's been well-entrenched," said Bruce Poulin with the legion in Ottawa. "It's taken several years to achieve that recognition and we don't want it to just be diluted to the point where, one, people don't associate it necessarily with veterans and two, that the funds that we collect are no longer being funnelled to the veterans for which it was intended."

The Royal Canadian Legion holds trademark rights on the poppy. But there have been no ramifications so far involving the creation of "white poppies' which are supposed to symbolize peace or the sealskin poppies in Nunavut.