Skip to main content

A soldier lays a poppy down on a soldier’s grave at Beechmount Cemetery in Edmonton on Thursday.

JASON FRANSON/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The wave of anxiety over the slaying of two soldiers on Canadian soil is giving way to something else: a steady stream of support for the military in the days leading up to Remembrance Day.

The Royal Canadian Legion is only halfway through its annual poppy campaign, but officials say Canadians have picked up about 19 million poppies – one million more than last year's total. In Ottawa, there are renewed calls to make Remembrance Day a national statutory holiday.

"Our taggers [volunteers] on the corners say people have just been lining up for them," said Jim Farrell, chairman of the Legion's Woodbine Heights branch in Toronto. "I think the events from a couple weeks ago brought the war home. It's not something that happens far away any more."

Story continues below advertisement

Corporal Nathan Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent were killed more than two weeks ago.

WO Vincent was killed Oct. 20 in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., by an extremist who ran the solider over with a car. Cpl. Cirillo was shot dead Oct. 22 by a gunman at the National War Memorial.

Legion officials say those events have become emblematic of a renewed patriotism – and have sparked an increase in military support.

"Vets returning from the war in Afghanistan, coupled with, we are now engaged with ISIS, plus the lone-wolf terror attack on home soil, brought to light the risk of wearing a uniform," Legion spokesperson Bruce Poulin said, making a reference to the war against Islamic State militants in Iraq. "Canadians are showing their support and it means a lot."

Mr. Farrell said his branch has experienced a 15-per-cent increase in demand for poppy pins.

Lucy Martin, chairwoman of a branch in Hamilton, said about 5,000 of the 15,000 poppy pins she started with are left. And local stores have been asking her to refill their boxes.

"There hasn't been this much interest since the war in Afghanistan broke," Ms. Martin said. "We are nearing empty. But we should make it."

Story continues below advertisement

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is cutting short a visit to China to participate in Remembrance Day ceremonies and officials expect the Ottawa ceremony to draw large crowds.

In the House of Commons on Wednesday, MPs voted 258-2 in favour of a private member's bill that would amend the Holidays Act to make Remembrance Day a statutory holiday.

Remembrance Day is already a statutory holiday in six provinces and the three territories but not in Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba and Nova Scotia. For federal civil servants, Nov. 11 is a day off no matter where they are.

NDP MP Dan Harris, who sponsored the bill, said he wants Canadians to be free to attend Remembrance Day ceremonies.

"Remembrance Day has always been very important for my family since my great-grandfather served in the world wars," Mr. Harris said.

"I started thinking about it in 2010 when I was in Alberta, where it is a statutory holiday. For some reason Remembrance Day isn't classified as a legal holiday, like Canada Day and Victoria Day, and I wanted to change that."

Story continues below advertisement

But veterans worry that schoolchildren will miss out on assemblies honouring those who have died in the line of duty.

Ontario has made no decision on whether to make Remembrance Day a statutory holiday, and Premier Kathleen Wynne said Thursday she was sympathetic to arguments both for and against.

Remembrance Day has not been a holiday in Ontario since 1982, when then-premier Bill Davis made it a regular work and school day.

"The premier at the time changed it because he wanted to make sure that in schools, children learned about the meaning of Remembrance Day. So I think you can make an argument on both sides of this," Ms. Wynne told reporters while touring an auto plant in Alliston, Ont. "But what's important is that Remembrance Day is an important time for people to acknowledge and honour those who have fought for us."

Mr. Poulin said the Legion hasn't seen such a large demand for poppies since it switched to the black-centre poppies from the green ones.

The 18 million poppy pins the Legion ordered for this season combined with the reserves in stock from previous campaigns should meet this year's demands, according to Mr. Poulin.

Story continues below advertisement

Manufacturers won't start making new ones until December, which will be used for next year's campaign.

With a report from Adrian Morrow

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter