OPINION: We will remember them

Published on November 17, 2020

OPINION: We will remember them

Hon. Lisa MacLeod, Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries

My grandfather was a veteran of the Second World War and came ashore on D-Day plus three at Juno Beach in Normandy to serve with his unit, the North Nova Scotia Regiment.

He never talked about the war other than to tell us funny stories. It wasn’t until years later when we helped him with an application to Veterans Affairs Canada that we learned he served throughout Northwest Europe and then at the end of the war volunteered to go and fight in the Pacific.

He died peacefully at home on my aunt’s couch watching hockey and uncharacteristically took out his war medals to polish them the night he passed.

He was part of our greatest generation and we all stand on their shoulders.

Imagine my surprise, when I woke up Friday morning to the story of Whole Foods, a large grocery chain, barring employees from wearing the poppy because — in their corporate opinion — it represents political messaging.

Premier Doug Ford called it “disgusting and disgraceful”.

I share his view.

In fact, those are the kindest words that can be ascribed to this travesty during Remembrance Week.

The first poppies in Canada were manufactured in the Freiman home on Somerset Street in Ottawa in 1921 under the direction of Lillian Bilsky Frieman, daughter of Moses Bilsky, the foundation member of the City of Ottawa’s Jewish community, while she cared for and supported wounded veterans.

The poppy is an enduring symbol of the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform who fight to protect and uphold our freedoms each day. As the Minister for Heritage in Ontario, our Government stands with our veterans, our fallen, and their families — and we always will.

It is why I was proud to announce alongside Premier Ford that our government will invest $3 million to support the inaugural Valour Games — a new, national multi-sport competition for wounded, ill and injured Canadian military personnel and Veterans. We’ll announce further investments leading up to Remembrance Day.

This is not a political issue.

Members from all parties proudly support our heroes by wearing a poppy out of respect for our fallen that laid down their lives to give us freedom and democracy.

While I’m glad to see Whole Foods reverse their decision, we can’t leave it up to public outcry or moral suasion to right these wrongs. As soon as the House returns, our government will bring in legislation to ensure this never happens again.

We will remember them!

This article was also published in the Toronto Sun on November 9, 2020.