NEWS

Ottawa shooting: Poppy campaign to go ahead despite attacks

10/24/2014 05:00 EDT | Updated 12/23/2014 05:59 EST
While security is expected to be beefed up at Remembrance Day ceremonies in major cities across the country this year, the annual poppy campaign will go ahead as scheduled, the Royal Canadian Legion says.

“It’s not business as usual simply because of what’s happened, but it’s business as usual as far as distributing poppies go," said the legion's dominion president, Tom Eagles.

Following this week's shooting death of a Canadian soldier at the National War Memorial in downtown Ottawa and the fatal hit and run of another solider in Quebec, Canadian soldiers have been told, for now, not to wear their uniforms in a public place.

So what about this year's poppy campaign?

Cadets, who have traditionally been a big part of the annual campaign, have been asked to curtail their activities, at least for now, "as a precautionary measure," said Daniel Blouin, a spokesman for the Department of National Defence. But they may yet be cleared for poppy duty.

"While there is no indication that cadets and junior Canadian Rangers are at risk themselves, we are taking these precautions to ensure the safety of the youth entrusted in our care.  We will continue to monitor this situation and provide further information and additional direction as soon as possible."

But Eagle said he didn't think legion members — veterans — would be targets.

“I mean anything can happen, we all know that, in this day and age. But I’m not concerned about that.”

The Nov. 11 Remembrance Day ceremony will continue as planned because the Royal Canadian Legion considers that date to be "the most important day of the year for our veterans' organization," Eagle said, adding he expects more security in the major cities.

"We're certainly not going to put our heads between our legs and kowtow to people like that," said Ken Parker, the president of Strathcona Legion branch 595 in Ottawa. "Canadians are diligent and we'll carry on. The poppy campaign will continue. We're not scared." 

The poppy campaign will begin Oct. 31, (the campaign always starts the last Friday of every October). Eagles said 18 million poppies were distributed last year.

"I presume that amount will be the same or even increased with what has happened," he said.

​Organizers of the Remembrance Day ceremony at the National Field of Honour cemetery in Pointe-Claire, Que., said there are no plans to ask soldiers or veterans not to wear uniforms. 

"I'm proud of my uniform," said organizer Serge Gélinas, a former Canadian Forces Member. "As far as I'm concerned, most military are proud of their uniforms. And if we don't want to let people intimidate us, I think it would be wise to wear them."

'We can't take this situation lightly'

"I'm not sure if we need to panic from our side, and not wear our uniforms."

Also in Quebec, the Royal Canadian Legion’s District Commander for Lakeshore West in Montreal, Murray Smith, said local police came by to talk about security measures.

The police suggested not holding any public parades, especially in uniform.

"They also suggested to be careful that your people do not wear uniforms while they are selling poppies," said Smith, who is also the poppy chairman. 

Archie Neilson, president of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 594 in Windsor, Ont., said he hopes veterans will be safe distributing Remembrance Day poppies.

"(Our members) will be wearing legion uniforms, not military uniforms, so that may make a difference. We don't really know."

In Vancouver, organizers of the city's Remembrance Day ceremonies said there will be increased security after the Ottawa shootings.

"First of all, we can't take this situation lightly," said Cam Cathcart, the chair of the Vancouver Remembrance Day Committee.

He stressed the Nov. 11 ceremony and parade will continue, but plans have been turned over to Vancouver Police to see if extra security will be needed at Victory Square.

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