Saskatchewan·Point of View

What does the poppy mean to you?

Many Canadians are wearing poppies as Remembrance Day draws closer, but the poppy means different things to different people. The Morning Edition put together a poppy panel to discuss.

Morning Edition panel discusses abstaining, the white poppy and honouring soldiers

Many Canadians are wearing poppies as Remembrance Day draws closer, but that poppy represents different things to different people. The Morning Edition put together a poppy panel with Stephen Whitworth, editor of Prairie Dog Magazine and Brett Wilson, entrepreneur and philanthropist. 

Whitworth says he's excited to be wearing a poppy again after abstaining for the last three years. 

A veteran of the Korean War who lives in Moncton will narrate historical vignette's performed by the Capital Theatre's School of Performing Arts as part of Remembrance Day ceremonies, and the Atlantic Maple Leaf tribute dinner for veterans in Moncton this week. (Royal Canadian Legion)

"I'd always worn a poppy, and it always meant a lot to me, and I just felt that political culture of Canada and Western nations was becoming too militaristic. Too much about not thinking, support the troops, support military funding, too much about the symbols and not enough about the sacrifice and the welfare of the actual soldiers. And I increasingly thought that wearing a poppy made me feel part of something I didn't want to be a part of. I felt that way for several years. [...] This year we have Justin Trudeau who seems to be working hard to be a more inclusive prime minister, even when he's receiving criticism, and suddenly I felt like we were getting back to something that we used to be, and once again I could put on the poppy comfortably."

Brett Wilson has taken a very public stand on social media against what he calls 'Christmas creep'. 

"I wear the poppy as my way of participating in changing thought and changing review and changing the opportunity that comes with thinking about Remembrance Day. I do agree there's a lot of people who have lost track, whether it's political or the average citizen of Canada, have lost track of what the poppy was meant to symbolize. For me it symbolizes both the people who serve, not just in the military, but all the front line. I've expanded on my own way of thinking, that it's not just one minute on Remembrance Day, it's a whole time leading up to Remembrance Day and the poppy is an integral symbol of call it 10 days of remembrance for me."

Wilson said he respects Whitworth's decision because he put "conscious thought" into his decision.

"The fact that Stephen didn't wear his poppy, I celebrate that because that creates the opportunity to talk about why we care," said Wilson. However, Wilson's respect does not extend to people who are part of the white poppy movement. 

"I got cantankerous of people saying it's time to stop celebrating the blood of those who died and the white poppy is about peace. I got really grumpy at people suggesting that the red poppy at all glorifies war. The daffodil of the Canadian Cancer Society does not celebrate cancer. You have 364 days to play with your white poppy, do not step on the graves of those who have gone before and condemn the red poppy. If you want to wear them side by side fine. I don't get it, but do not trip over the graves of those that have gone before us."

Some members of pacifist organizations sees its poppies as a complement to the red ones. ((CBC))

The two panel members were able to find common ground. 

"I think Brett has become incredibly frustrated over the conversation around the poppy, and that's exactly how I felt. When discourse breaks down, we all get frustrated and we all become more cantankerous. The culture that was driving me to not want to participate in something that was important to me is maybe the same culture that makes Brett's head explode when he sees a white poppy. Maybe we are all victims of this," said Whitworth. 

The Morning Edition is inviting you to share what wearing the poppy means to you. You can e-mail, tweet @SheilaColesCBC or phone talk-back at 1-800-661-7540.