Poppy Campaign

The Royal Canadian Legion is responsible for Canada’s remembrance poppy campaign which distributes plastic lapel poppies to be worn in the lead up to Remembrance Day. The poppy is worn on the left lapel, or as close to the heart as possible. The current lapel poppy has been manufactured since 1922—originally under the sponsorship of the Department of Soldiers Civil Re-establishment. Until 1996, the poppy material was manufactured at sheltered workshops operated by Veterans Affairs Canada. Poppies are distributed through retail outlets, workplaces, Legion branches, malls and other locations across Canada. Typically, the poppies are sold using an honor system, with the poppies being left in open places with a receptacle for leaving a donation toward the campaign. Funds raised are used to support ex-service members in need and to fund medical appliances and research, home services, care facilities and numerous other purposes benefiting veterans.

In Canada, the poppy is the official symbol of remembrance worn during the two weeks before 11 November, having been adopted in 1921. The Royal Canadian Legion, which has trademarked the image, suggests that poppies be worn on the left lapel, or as near the heart as possible. Until 1996, poppies were made by disabled veterans in Canada, but they have since been made by a private contractor. The Canadian poppies consist of two pieces of moulded plastic covered with flocking with a pin to fasten them to clothing.  At first the poppies were made with a black centre. From 1980 to 2002, the centres were changed to green. Current designs are black only; this change caused confusion and controversy to those unfamiliar with the original design. In 2007, sticker versions of the poppy were made for children, the elderly, and healthcare and food industry workers. Canada also issues a cast metal “Canada Remembers” pin featuring a gold maple leaf and two poppies, one representing the fallen and the other representing those who remained on the home front.

Following the installation of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the National War Memorial in Ottawa in 2000, where the national Remembrance service is held, a new tradition formed spontaneously as attendees laid their poppies on the tomb at the end of the service. This tradition, while not part of the official program, has become widely practiced elsewhere in the country, with others leaving cut flowers, photographs, or letters to the deceased. The poppy is also worn on Memorial Day, celebrated on July 1 each year in Newfoundland and Labrador.