Pandemic complicates poppy campaign for 2nd straight year

With less than a week before Remembrance Day, the poppy campaign in Ottawa has picked up speed — but the pandemic is still complicating the process.

Royal Canadian Legion in Orléans collecting donations, distributing poppies by drive-thru

A sign outside the Orléans branch of the Royal Canadian Legion directs people to a drive-thru poppy fundraiser, during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Jean-François Poudrier/Radio-Canada)

With less than a week before Remembrance Day, the poppy campaign in Ottawa has picked up speed — but the pandemic is still complicating the process.

The Royal Canadian Legion in Orléans is carrying out its poppy distribution and donation collection with a drive-thru service for the second year in a row.

"Last year, we had more places to distribute poppies," said Joyce Bisson, a public relations officer with the branch.

The Orléans branch of the Royal Canadian Legion is hoping to raise $75,000 in donations through the poppy campaign this year. (Radio-Canada)

The drive-thru strategy is attracting fewer donors than other campaign strategies pre-pandemic, she said. Thus, the legion has adjusted its campaign goals and hopes to raise $75,000 this year.

Bisson said the legion had the same target last year but ended up surpassing that goal, raising $120,000. They're hoping for a similar late-campaign surge this time around.

John Cooke, 83, said he makes a point of volunteering his time every year. 

"There is nothing that will stop me from coming," he told Radio-Canada.

Flags raised, then returned to half mast

As the poppy campaign unfolds, so does discussion about whether the federal government should raise its flags before Remembrance Day. Until Sunday, flags on federal buildings across the country had been flown at half-mast since May 30, in response to the discovery of unmarked graves near former residential school sites.

The federal government announced late last week that it would raise the flags on Parliament Hill at sunset Sunday, before lowering them for Indigenous Veterans Day on Monday. They will then be raised again before being lowered on Nov. 11 — Remembrance Day. After those ceremonies, the flag will fly at full mast on government buildings.

The Canadian flag on the Peace Tower returned to full-mast, Sunday, for the first time since May 30.The flags were first lowered to half-mast following the discovery in late May of more than 200 unmarked graves at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia. (Buntola Nou/CBC)

At least some fundraiser organizers supported the announcement.

"What happened with the school … I do not want to diminish that," Stephanie Guy, president of the Legion's Barrhaven branch told Radio-Canada. "It is important to remember that our soldiers, our veterans, have suffered."

The Remembrance Poppy celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. All funds raised through the campaign support services for veterans.

With files from Radio-Canada's Marie-Jeanne Dubreuil