Peace group's white poppy angers Legion

Brenda Vellino, of the Ottawa White Poppy Coalition, holds up one of the poppies that's causing all...

Brenda Vellino, of the Ottawa White Poppy Coalition, holds up one of the poppies that's causing all the debate. (Errol McGihon, QMI Agency)

TONY SPEARS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:48 AM ET

OTTAWA - White poppies are meant to amplify Remembrance Day ceremonies, not oppose them, proponents say.

But the white "peace" poppy is coming under fire from the Royal Canadian Legion for infringing on its trademark red one and detracting from November's solemn ceremonies.

Canadians "need to expand the window of what we remember and grieve on Remembrance Day," Ottawa White Poppy Coalition member Brenda Vellino said Wednesday.

That includes civilians -- who suffer higher casualties in wars -- added coalition member Ian Harvey.

At first glance, the symbolism of the white poppy appears much like the red one.

Both evoke remembrance but Legion spokesman Bob Butt said the red poppy is about "remembering people who have died in service of their country."

"We don't think wars should ever be fought," Butt said. "But we're not the ones who make the rules."

And that appears to be the key difference in the debate.

White-poppy wearers advocate "non-violent means of conflict resolution," Harvey said.

"Lest we forget," becomes hollow when new generations of soldiers are sent to fight in new wars, he adds.

"I don't want them to go. (And I) don't want them to die," he said.

Harvey believes Remembrance Day ceremonies adopt the idea that war is a necessary evil.

He doesn't buy it, saying the best tribute to the veterans and the fallen is to avoid creating new generations of wounded and dead.

Vellino noted there's a rich tradition of anti-war poetry among veterans -- a counter-current to John McCrae's urge to "take up our quarrel with the foe" in his poem, In Flanders Field.

Vellino stressed that the coalition does not take up collections for the white poppies.

They can be ordered from United Kingdom websites where they have been in steady use since the 1930s.

She did not believe the Prince Edward Island poppies -- subject of a cease-and-desist order from the Legion -- are distributed in Ottawa.

Vellino said people are welcome to wear both poppies.

After the Nov. 11 War Memorial ceremony is complete, the coalition will place a wreath of white poppies at the monument, which it has done for several years.

They lay it on the north side so as not to draw attention from the red wreathes.

Ultimately, a poppy by any other colour is still property of the Legion, Butt said.

"We're just trying to protect our trademark," he said.

tony.spears@sunmedia.ca


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