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A cadet holds a tablet showing the digital poppy during a ceremony marking the start of the Canadian Legion's Remembrance Day poppies at the Beechwood National Memorial centre, Oct. 22, 2018, in Ottawa.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

The Remembrance Day poppy has entered the digital age.

The Royal Canadian Legion launched a digital version of the distinctive red flower Friday, which it says can be customized, shared online and used as a profile image on sites including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

The downloadable image looks like a silver coin with a red poppy at the centre. The words “Remembrance Day 2018” run along the top edge, while the bottom edge can be customized to display the name of a veteran or someone in service. Otherwise, the words “We Remember” will appear.

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The Royal Canadian Legion’s deputy director says he hopes it will appeal to younger generations accustomed to communicating on social media.

“It’s the way they communicate to their friends and to groups of individuals and it’s the same as physically wearing a poppy and saying, ‘I support veterans,“’ says Danny Martin.

He also expects a downloadable poppy would address our “increasingly cashless society,” guessing that a growing reliance on debit and credit purchases mean shoppers often have less cash to donate when faced with a request.

In the same way there are strict rules around how a lapel poppy should be worn (over the heart, with the original pin), there are limits to how the digital poppy should be used.

Martin says they’re not meant to be altered, and although they can supplant a profile image on a social media account, they’re not meant to be combined with other images.

The danger that the poppy can be co-opted and distorted is why the legion is fiercely opposed to creating a poppy emoji, he adds, despite the popularity of miniature images in messages and e-mail.

“It’s a free-for-all. People can take that emoji and utilize it for other purposes, which happens all the time in different environments or different companies,” he explains.

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“You send that thing out in the common domain, then we’ve lost control and we actually, legally, (would be) losing control of the poppy trademark.”

Still, he admits there’s “no doubt” someone could manipulate the digital poppy that’s being released now.

“Yes, there’s going to be cases where they’re going to abuse the symbol or try and use it for their own cause and we’ll have to deal with that as we go along.”

Poppies are meant to be displayed from the last Friday of October until midnight, Nov. 11.

Beyond that date, an accompanying link to the online poppy will expire, although the image will remain on sites they’ve been posted to or drives to which they’ve been downloaded, says Martin.

The digital poppies are available for an online donation at www.mypoppy.ca until Nov. 11 and are meant to complement the traditional lapel poppy, typically available at cafe and convenience store cash registers alongside a donation box.

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Martin says the legion is also selling a butterfly clasp that for the first time is allowed for use with the lapel poppy to better secure it in place.

Publicity material for the digital poppy featured endorsements by celebrity Canadians including Margaret Atwood, Ashley Callingbull and Don Cherry, who dedicated his poppy to his great uncle, Sgt. Thomas William MacKenzie. He died in battle four days before Armistice Day in 1918.

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