Poppies, Remembrance Day ceremonies go virtual for 2020

·3-min read
Poppies are placed on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier following a Remembrance Day ceremony at the National War Memorial in Ottawa November 11, 2010.     REUTERS/Blair Gable     (CANADA - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY)
Poppies are placed on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier following a Remembrance Day ceremony at the National War Memorial in Ottawa November 11, 2010.

Just like Thanksgiving and Halloween, November’s annual poppy campaign will look a little different this year, as a result of the pandemic.

Traditionally it’s a time when veterans and volunteers across Canada set up stations outside of supermarkets and drugstores to collect money for poppy pins. The donations support local legions and the services they offer vets.

While the campaign is still underway, don’t expect to see as many volunteers out collecting donations. Nujma Bond, manager of communications at the Royal Canada Legion, says poppy boxes will still be placed at 25,000 locations across the country.

“There will be fewer volunteers because of the pandemic-related restrictions and health reactions,” she tells Yahoo Canada. “There will be volunteers where it’s possible to be out.”

If retailers are comfortable having volunteers at their locations, then the volunteer will do so in a manner that is safe.

In a typical year, the poppy campaign brings in between $15 and $20 million for the Royal Canadian Legion to run its programs. However with some volunteers opting to not participate this year due to COVID-19 concerns, the Legion is relying on alternative methods of generating key funds.

A new option of donating will take the form of a tap-and-pay box, where Canadians can donate in $2 increments using tap-enabled cards or devices. The more they care to donate, the more the user taps. The service does not have a fee, so there won’t be any additional charges. The initiative is in partnership with HSBC Bank Canada.

The timing of this touchless option happened to coincide with the pandemic, though plans to launch the pilot project were established well before COVID-19 hit the globe. There will be 250 of the boxes throughout the country, which can mostly be found at HSBC bank branches but also several Legions in Ontario.

“Depending on how this year goes, how people take to these boxes and if there’s any bugs to be worked out, we would look to expand this option in future years,” says Bond.

There’s also a website, mypoppy.ca, where people can customize a dedication. The funds from the digital poppy initiative go to the Legion’s national foundation, which in turn funds programs for veterans, community initiatives as well as promotion for Remembrance Day.

For people who still want to wear a poppy, they will be available at retailers like London Drugs, Shoppers Drug Mart as well as coffee shops like Tim Horton and Starbucks.

This year’s national remembrance ceremony at the National War Memorial in Ottawa will still take place, but organizers are asking people to stay home and watch on TV or on Facebook live. There will be some local ceremonies across the country, but they will be drastically reduced in size as a result of pandemic restrictions.

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