In November of last year I published an article called “We Remember: Why Canadians Wear Poppies”. Today, as the centenary of the end of the First World War draws near, I feel it’s a good time to bring that topic back up, as the importance of it cannot be overstated.
The red flowers began appearing on lapels last Wednesday, October 25th when the official poppy distribution began. While this annual tradition is nothing out of the ordinary for Canadians it holds even more significance this year with the mark of 100 years since the end of The Great War. As a mark of tribute to honour those involved in the war efforts, many companies and organizations took their recognition efforts a step further this year.
The Royal Canadian Legion, a non-profit organization for all ex-service Canadians, took poppy distributions to the digital world. For the first time, “digital poppies” are available by donation on mypoppy.ca, giving people the possibility to post them online via social media websites. The RCL took this new innovation one step further, by giving donors the option to dedicate their poppy to a specific person from the war. If you go to mypoppy.ca you can see examples of these digital flowers that have been created by famous Canadians, including Margaret Atwood who dedicated her poppy to Brigadier General T.G. Gibson and Don Cherry who dedicated his to Sergeant Thomas W. MacKenzie.
In Ottawa, the Canadian War Museum created an exhibition focused on The Last 100 Days, when some of the most decisive battles for Canadian forces were fought as the war finally drew to a close. This multimedia exhibition contains artwork, artifacts, documents, film, photography, and powerful stories from troops, that capture the battles fought during those one hundred days in as many means possible.
Maclean’s, a Canadian news magazine, took on the massive project of publishing more than 66,000 individual covers for their World War I Centennial Commemorative Issues. Each cover is dedicated to one of the fallen women and men from the war. When the information was available, the cover also included their age, rank, and date of death. Thus, each copy essentially serves as a tombstone for one of the thousands of Canadians who lost their lives. In an article about this project, Maclean’s explained that “we owe them this: respect for their courage, and remembrance for their ultimate sacrifice; lessons written in blood and, as history shows, too easily forgotten.
And so, you hold a name.”
These are just a few of the many acts of tribute and honour that are ongoing all across Canada leading up to Remembrance Day. Just as John McRae wrote, those who lost their lives in the war “loved and were loved” and will continue to be loved by all of us today who wear poppies to commemorate them and recognize the importance of their sacrifice for our freedom. As the Maclean’s article put it so eloquently,
“Their names live on in the remembering. We shoulder their burden as guardians of peace.”
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