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Regarding the mechanics of the pin, there may also be a significant disconnect between the de facto rule-makers and the general public. The military has very strict rules about the display of medals (see here and, unbelievably, here). This is a cherished part of military culture and many veterans (but definitely not all) continue to identify with it. I think the closest equivalent in the civilian world is some rules about wedding rings or white shoes after Labor Day.

Of course, this doesn't explain the existence of a monopoly in Canada when other countries don't have one. I don't know about Oz/NZ, but veterans groups in the US and UK have a much bigger presence in everyday life than the Legion does in Canada. So perhaps when it comes to the one occasion where they have some prominence and authority, they enjoy the exercise of it.

The poppy pin is made for the button-hole in the lapel of men's suit jackets, the hole in the collar that is sewn shut. The wool and collar keep the pin in place. I wore my dress suit to present to a hearing of the Redistribution Commission for Ontario (Commons ridings) so I of course as a budding political operative wore a poppy in my lapel.

The easy solution for people with coats or shirts of other material, as I learned in public school, is to place the eraser off the tip of a regular pencil on the end of the poppy. The rubber stays on the pin and provides enough weight and resistance to keep the poppy on.

Plus the Poppy Campaign is a fundraiser, the fact poppies disappear, making you buy more is a feature, is it not?

Shangwen - Your point about the disconnect between the way the poppy is viewed in the military, and by the general public, is a good one.

I suspect (despite the title of the post) that the bigger difference between Canada and other countries is that the Royal Canadian Legion is relatively more de-centralized. See, for example, this publication that says each Legion branch maintains its own poppy trust fund. Dominion Command doesn't have an incentive to design and market a better poppy because they don't keep the revenue, and the local branches don't want national, on-line sales because it will eat into their revenue. Meanwhile, although Canadian soldiers continue to fight and sacrifice their lives, the aging of the WWII vets - and the children of those vets -- mean that there are fewer and fewer Canadians with a close personal tie to someone who has served in the forces, the local Legion branches are shrinking, and it's getting harder and harder to even find a poppy to purchase.

Determinant, thanks for the tip!

Meanwhile, although Canadian soldiers continue to fight and sacrifice their lives, the aging of the WWII vets - and the children of those vets -- mean that there are fewer and fewer Canadians with a close personal tie to someone who has served in the forces, the local Legion branches are shrinking, and it's getting harder and harder to even find a poppy to purchase.

Facts not in evidence. Here in Central-East Ontario, there is a poppy box in post offices, grocery stores, hotels, everywhere you could want. I forgot my poppy in my other coat when I went to the hearing in my suit, I wore my trench coat which I don't normally do. There was a poppy box in the desk in the hotel where the hearings were being held.

The Royal Canadian Legion is part of the larger Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League, which includes the Royal British Legion, the Returned and Service League of Australia and of New Zealand, the South African Legion and other national organizations. The Royal Canadian Legion is heavily involved in helping other national organizations, particularly in poorer countries in the Caribbean run their own poppy campaigns. A standard poppy that's very, very cheap is an asset.

Regrettably the Returned and Service League of Australia and the one in New Zealand aren't so internationally minded so the RCESL has to run direct fundraising campaigns in the Asia-Pacific region.

In Australia Day, there's some use of sprigs of rosemary for Anzac Day (and to a lesser extent for Remembrance Day), for which there's no monopoly and substantial free supply.

[In addition to the traditional association with remembrance, rosemary grows wild at Gallipoli]

Thomas, I didn't know that, thanks for sharing.

As Frances points out, the Canadian Legion has a monopoly on poppy distribution, but not on the honour of soldiers or their sacrifice.

I stopped buying and wearing poppies many years ago after the Canadian Legion membership, ignoring the advice of its leadership, voted to continue to ban the wearing of turbans in Legion Halls. Instead, I try to find other ways to remember Canadian who died in military service.

Simon, that is so interesting.

"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"

Am I alone in thinking that "poppies... trampled in the mud" is a hauntingly appropriate way to remember the sacrifices of war? That could just as easily be a decription of a battlefield in Afghanistan today as one in Flanders 95 years ago.

In fairness to the legion, they are not entirely unresponsive to consumer demand. I've noticed they now sell poppy stickers for children (which I don't recall from my childhood).

Bob, no, you're not alone.

I didn't see any poppy stickers for children for sale, but like I said, I didn't find it that easy to find a poppy at all this year. Everything about the poppy sales is very decentralized. The Calgary legion raises a million dollars through poppy sales and has professional organizers, lots of smaller legion raises only a few thousand or a few tens of thousands of dollars, and rely much more on volunteers. Unless the local organizer orders stick on poppies from the supplier, none will be available. (It's actually interesting to poke around on the CRA charities listing and read about the various poppy funds, if you're into that kind of thing).

The Legion is way too restrictive.
Last week, there was a stink when Québec Prime Minister ( in QC we refer to our CEO as PM not premier) Pauline Marois wore a small fleur-de-lys on her poppy. What is disrepectful about that? Couldn't the premier of AB wear a white rose or that of ON a trillium? After all, they are provincial not federal magistrates. Poppy for the whole and something closer to your heart in addition?

"The Legion is way too restrictive."

Certainly the claim that the poppy is "sacred symbol of Remembrance and should not be defaced in any way" is somewhat undermined by the fact that for 22 years (1980 to 2002) the Legion sold poppies with green centers rather than black ones (they actually made the decision to revert to the black in 1986, but it took them 16 years to sell-off their stock of green centered poppies). They had their reasons, but that fact somewhat blows their moral authority to pontificate as to what consitutes defacing a "sacred symbol". Not that anyone's going to call them on it on remembrance day.

Mind you, in the case of Pauline Marois, it was probably the separatist connocations (or, at least, the perceived separatist connotations) of the fleur-de-lys was what bothered the Legion more than "defacing" the poppy. I suspect that anti-separatism (while not an explicit requirement of Legion membership - like, for example, anti-communism or anti-fascism) is probably de-rigeur among its members.

Frances - They started selling the sticker versions back in 2007, but they can be hard to find (I suspect they raise less money than the traditional poppies on a per poppy/sticker basis).

Bob nailed it, Jacques. In Quebec the description "Quebeckers and Canadians" has currency, which is a false distinction historically and one that does not apply at all to the military, which has nothing whatsoever to do with provinces except providing aid to the civil power, when requested by a province (see Oka).

Mme. Marois was trying to make a disingenuous and very tasteless political point with a poppy pin and was rightly called out on it. No other province has an issue with national symbols, except maybe Newfoundland when in the mood to grandstand. Seeing national and Quebec symbols as an either/or thing rather than a both and all thing is a Quebec peculiarity.

And yes, the Legion's Quebec membership has a significant Federalist core.

Determinant, Jacques Rene - the discussion so far has been fine, but I will unpublish any comments I feel veer too far off topic.

Determinant: the distinction is real for some, whatever others feel. SO be it.
The military has nothing to do with provinces but a lot to do with the two founding nations., one of which is also a province.
Franco military units have names, ship's badges, crest , flags and other symbols refering directly to Québec. If Her Garcious MAjesty can have the Coldstream Guards as a direct descendant of Cromwell's Guards, we can deal with our situation.
It may have been disingenuous but was not disrespectful. Anyone can blunt its perceived effect by wearing a trillium or a rose.
NL is not grandstanding but standing to what they see as their rights as kind-of-nation within a multinational state. That's how they see themselves. Not for me to judge.

Canada once was bi-something all over the place. Sifton's policy, among others, saw to it and tranformed French-Canada into Québec. I am old enough to remember and somehow regret what could have been. We deal with the country we now have, paying for the sins of our forefathers.

The Legion has a reason to be intransigent. Some regiments fought to protect Britain, some to protect France, few fought to protect Canada which was not physically threatened. After WWII, we discovered they had all fought for civilization and decency as have the veterans of Afghan. It is not easy to honor those who died for the country if we don't know which country was at stake..
Lest we forget.

Jacques Rene "few fought to protect Canada" I said no off topic posts, so I'm going to resist commenting on this.

Jacques, mindful of Frances' advice, I will say the following, and no more:

Compact Theory, which you believe in and which your last post espouses, is wrong, wrong, wrong and historically inaccurate. It also assumes that English Canada was and is far more homogeneous than it ever was or is right now.

I'll see your Quebec assertion and raise you the Acadians and Frano-Ontarians. I used to live in northern New Brunswick. The North Shore Regiment, the local battalion, landed on D-Day.

Anyway, back to sales.

I reiterate my point that the fact that poppies fall off one's jacket easily is a feature, not a flaw. Given the social impetus to wear a poppy a person buys another poppy as a result, and that increases sales revenue.

"I reiterate my point that the fact that poppies fall off one's jacket easily is a feature, not a flaw. Given the social impetus to wear a poppy a person buys another poppy as a result, and that increases sales revenue."

Sure, that's a feature from the prospective of the Legion, but that's like saying that making cheap cars that break down quickly is a feature from the prospective of a monopolist car manufacturer. It's true, but it's also socially inefficient, which is Frances point. Given the goodwill that the Legion has, and the good work they do, I doubt many are bothered by that inefficiency (or their monopoly "profits"), but Frances is right on the money n her purely economic analysis.

Bob: "I doubt many are bothered by that inefficiency (or their monopoly "profits")"

I've been thinking more about this, and digging around the financial statements of the various poppy funds and legions on the CRA web site (under the charities listing). It seems to me that there is beginning to be a serious mismatch between poppy revenues, poppy spending, and the actual needs of veterans. Someone who was 16 in 1946 is 82 today. So there are no WWI vets around, and few WWII vets. The typical vet is going to be shifting, over the next few years, to an old man in a thick wool coat to a 30 or 40 year old who's had a couple of tours in the middle east or Bosnia, and is dealing with injuries, stress, and all the stuff that happens in today's labour market. Spending money on seniors services isn't going to cut it any longer.

There is also a potential mismatch between the places where big poppy bucks are raised (big cities like Calgary) and the location of the vets. How does the poppy money get to some guy in Trois Rivieres or Shediac or Moncton?

Frances: You're right. The current commitment toward the returning soldiers is shameful compared to what we did after WWII. I'm not talking about the total budget, given the much smaller number, but the attitude.

Once the legally elected government has decided, rightly or wrongly, to send someone risk his life, you owe them everything, especially respect. You don't argue that this or that ailment is or is not due to service. You don't ask them to prove that such and gas or munition dust is responsible. You treat them. You recognize any transferable skills they learned into a recognizable diploma. If the skills are not tranferable, at least the abilities they have must be matched with an appropriate training. You owe them.
As I just said to my International Commerce students, what is the real product the Legion is selling and what is the benefits for them?

Selling poppies doesn't bring that much money compared to their needs. They don't care that much about that. Most money for veterans come from Ottawa. They are a lobbying group. What they sell is the public engagement to their cause. Selling a sturdier one would bring no more money as they would be costlier. But selling them each year renew the public commitment. And that' their real objective.

As for the poppies falling on the ground and being sullied with mud, a canny marketer could convince them to tranform a bug into a feature and start a campaign on the general theme of "wear them and when they fall, contemplate them and think of of the bloood in the mud. If your poppy don't fall, throw it and think of your own blood flowing." I don't know about others but that would move me.

It must be remembered that the Veteran's Charter after WWII was a direct reaction to the very poor treatment veterans got after WWI. The Legion was originally a lobby group formed to press for veteran's pensions, which didn't exist prior to 1945. Disability pensions were also a joke, the government loved missing fingers but hated mental health or hidden injuries from gas. My great-grandfather was a gas victim.

An old trick to dealing with veterans was to employ them in the Post Office. When the Post Office was still a government department, it was subject to the various Public Service Employment Acts, which give priority to War Service. It was located in every town in Canada and the jobs were doable by anyone. With Canada Post as a Crown Corporation with a mandate to make money, that's gone.

The Public Service Employment Act was recently amended to allow a priority to veterans from the current Forces. I'm not sure how effective that will be though. Most federal government jobs carry a BBB bilingualism rating. That takes effort to get to, and it's a known effective screening tool. Second the particular needs and idiosyncrasies of federal government resumes mean you have to pay somebody to do them who knows the process, you won't do a decent job on your own and commerical standard resumes won't cut it. Plus there is the achingly long time to hire, not to mention if a manager has a hidden agenda.

The federal government has a particular tension been merit, representativeness and the view of government jobs as a welfare program for your personal special interest.

Jacques Rene, Determinant - there's a fascinating interaction here between the changing nature of warfare, military technology and medical technology. In 1942, if a land mine blew up beside you, you were probably dead. Now, with much better protective gear and vastly improved medical technology, you might well survive - albeit with long term damage to mind and body. Deaths are down, the number of casualties relative to the number of deaths is up.

It's much easier to provide long term care for a dead veteran than for one with serious long-term challenges.

Frances wrote:

The typical vet is going to be shifting, over the next few years, to an old man in a thick wool coat to a 30 or 40 year old who's had a couple of tours in the middle east or Bosnia, and is dealing with injuries, stress, and all the stuff that happens in today's labour market. Spending money on seniors services isn't going to cut it any longer.

This does bring us back to veteran's issues. In 1945 in all Allied governments there was a consensus on the post-war agenda through the following series of interlocking policies:

1) Governments would pursue a full-employment strategy through Keynesian techniques. Out of this falls an expectation of continuing stable employment on the individual level.
2) Unions, recognized as full partners during the war in all Allied countries, would be at the table and would be the vehicle for the middle class's micro demands.
3) In addition to the benefits of unionization (pensions and health benefits, higher wages), the government would pursue a welfare state strategy and enable policies that reinforced union demands, such as tax breaks for health benefits and pensions.
4) The middle-class society, as Paul Krugman mentions, is a child of policy, specifically high, progressive income tax rates enacted in all Allied countries in the Depression and the war. The Gilded Age didn't end until 1935-1940, depending on when your jurisdiction got around to levying wartime tax rates.

This was how a generation was to be demobilized, transitioned into the civilian workforce and most crucially maintained there. That consensus has been systemically attacked, criticized and gutted. For most workers in the private sector, stable work+pension+health (drugs, dental and disability) a dream now, not a reality. But our political discourse has not managed to generate a cohesive policy and political narrative for the present reality and still defaults to this post-war consensus.

The NDP's current platform, in this respect, is amazingly conservative in that it plainly seeks to return to this post-war consensus.

To which were added:
1) The Marshall Plan. We had already ditched the killing-all-men-and-enslaving-the-women part of ending a war. The Marshall Plan ended the -and exact-tribute-from-the-rest part. Instead of pillaging the vanquishe or excating reparations, we rebuild the vanquished and the fought-over. It was a good export market for us as wellat first then it was rebuiding a trading partner.

2) NATO: Stalin having demonstrated its essentially non-looking -for-another-war intentions ( by murdering the trotskyites and other world revolutionnaries wannabe in eastern Europe, the idealists who had fought is the Spanish Civil War...), we could use NATO as an internal police for Europe. Find an ennemy outside yourself. ("Keep the Germans down, the Russians out and the Americans in" said the British.
Both institutions also served to prevent American usual isolationnism.

All in all, a good deal. But the ruling class wasn't content with keeping just a large share of the loot. They just wanted it all. As they realized the USSR wasn't a menace, they saw no rationale to give us peasants and proles a reason not to turn communist, they threw us overboard, no matter that they no longer had a crew in the holds...

Isn't the symbol obscuring the remembrance of the reality? I once was asked to give a talk to a high school class about Veteran's Day, and ended up reading several pieces by poet soldiers. The favorites in the class were, 'Here, Bullet' from Iraq, and 'The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner', from WWW II. It lead to a newspaper column, which contains the two poems mentioned, which I've reposted here. http://somewhatlogically.com/?p=741

Remembrance Day in Canada, unlike Veteran's Day in the US, has a large component of mourning. It is a day for the dead as much for the living.

Determinant: not surprising since the losses of the Empire-Commonwealth were much larger than the U.S. losses ( proportionnally at least). The social and political effects on Europe were far greater
and still linger on. The equivalent for the U.S was the Civil War but it is slowly monving out of memory and the greater influx of immigrants for whom it has less significance has accelerated the phenomenon. Though it is still waged in the elections....

JR Hulls:
on that theme ( and the european weariness about war) there is the famous
Le déserteur from Boris Vian




Not just losses, Canada was in WWI right from the Guns of August in 1914, we have our own photos of that particular madness.

We were there for Ypres in 1915, the Somme in 1916 and Vimy & Paeschendaele in 1917, which regardless of press were very bloody affairs. That cut a bloody swath through most Canadian cities, towns and villages.

The US did not join the war until 1917.

The List of Remembrance for fatalities from my church is longer for WWI than for WWII, that's typical in Canada but unheard of in the US.

I had a discussion with American friends that WWI is still remembered in Canada while WWII has less of a profile, the reverse is true in the US.

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