I have lost more Remembrance Day poppies than I can count. They just don't stay on.
Some people combine patriotism with remembrance, and affix their poppy with a Canadian flag pin. The Canadian Legion, while acknowledging that a poppy attached with a flag pin is better than no poppy at all, maintains its official position: The poppy is a "sacred symbol of Remembrance and should not be defaced in any way. No other pin, therefore, should be used to attach it to clothing.”
Why can't the Legion make a poppy that stays on? According to the Legion website:
We have tried a protective sheath, which was placed over the end of the Poppy pin. There were 100,000 in circulation. The Legion branches were requested to report on the acceptance or rejection of this initiative and the vast majority reported that the sheath was rejected as Canadians preferred to receive the Poppy in its traditional form.
The Legion also sells - and this I never knew - metal poppy label pins. However these are sold through local Legion branches, hence are relatively difficult to obtain.
It doesn't have to be this way. In Australia and New Zealand there is a wide selection of poppies available to order on-line, including $50 gold plated poppy badges. The British Legion also has an extensive on-line collection.
Why doesn't the Canadian Legion do something similar, and market a high quality pin that stays in place on-line? One possibility is that the Canadian Legion has a strong monopoly on poppy distribution, and therefore there is no pressure on it to act efficiently.
In other countries there is more competition in the poppy distribution market. In Britain, for example, English, Scotland and Northern Ireland all have separate poppy campaigns. While the campaigns do not compete directly, consumers are able to compare the quality of the various poppies, which puts indirect pressure on each campaign. The gift shop at the Australian War Memorial sells paper poppies, which visitors place on the Roll of Honour as a tribute to those who have served, introducing an element of competition into their poppy market. In Britain, the Peace Pledge Union distributes white poppies, as a way of remembering people who have died in war, and to raise funds to peace campaigns.
In Canada, however, the Legion has a monopoly over poppy distriution. It has threatened to sue distributors of the white poppy for infringing its copyright. I have no desire to see funds diverted away from the good causes that the Legion supports. But I would like to be able to obtain a poppy that stays in place, and I strongly suspect that, if there was a little more competition in the poppy market, someone would soon design and market a better poppy.
Still, this being Canada, there is always that other explanation: regional politics. At present, each local Legion branch raises its own revenue by selling poppies and other merchandise. If poppy pins were marketed on-line, who would get the revenue? Would it go to national headquarters? If it was distributed to the branches, how much would each branch receive? Inevitably, some branches would gain more from on-line poppy marketing than others.
The poppy is a powerful symbol. Yet poppies lying on the sidewalk, or trampled in the mud, are no way to remember those who have fought, and the sacrifices of war.