SIMCOE, Ont. — Not four days into the Royal Canadian Legion’s annual Remembrance Day poppy drive, southwestern Ontario has notched its first theft this season of a poppy donation box.
Worse, the thief looted the box and dumped the poppies — symbolic of Canada’s wartime dead and sacrifices — in the washroom of a Tim Hortons he hit, swiping the collection box from the counter, about midnight Monday.
“It is really upsetting,” said OPP Const. Ed Sanchuk. “We want to hold this person accountable.”
And so begins the annual hunt for thieves who’d deprive war veterans and their families of the loonies, toonies, small change and bills that are collected each year in the iconic poppy boxes.
The suspect — a man between 30 and 40, of average build, seen wearing a camouflage hat, blue jogging pants and a blue sweater and white shoes -- joins a long list of no-shame thieves who’ve grown increasingly brazen in recent years.
Each year, “the lowest of the low” — as one Legion official once called them — steal from the bravest of the brave.
Last year, a 39-year-old man — with a criminal record that included convictions for theft and break and enter -- swiped more than two dozen poppy boxes in the Brantford area. He was sentenced to six months in jail.
A year earlier, 10 of the boxes were swiped during a break-in at the Canadian Corps Veterans Association’s London office, and a rash of box thefts in Toronto, Hamilton and Sault Ste. Marie broke out before Remembrance Day that year.
BY THE NUMBERS
18 MILLION: Poppies distributed nationwide in Canada each year.
$7.5M to $8M: Money raised for Legion branches.