“This will be the first time I’ve worn a poppy in over 20 years,” writes Gurmeet Ahluwalia, who grew up in Alberta when Legion halls barred Sikhs wearing turbans from their premises.
These men wore their turbans on the battlefield, defending the British Empire, yet it was deemed disrespectful to wear it in a place meant to honour the sacrifice of those who served. […]
So — why haven’t I worn a poppy until now? Well, to be honest, my feelings were hurt. I was born and raised here, and yet the public debate reminded me that I will continue to look “un-Canadian” to a sadly large portion of my fellow citizens. […]
This year, however, things changed. With the death of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, gunned down while doing his duty on Canadian soil, I realized it was time to let go of my hurt feelings from almost two decades ago. For whatever reason, this young man’s sacrifice impacted on deeply emotional level. I picked up a poppy yesterday, and will wear it again in the coming years.
“Remembrance Day has always been ambiguous to me,” writes my friend Hayden Trenholm, whose father served during World War II.
After the war, he went to the Legion a few times but by the time I was ten he stopped doing that, stopped marching in the Remembrance Day parade. He told me that he couldn’t stand the drinking and couldn’t stomach the men who told stories of war as if it were a glorious thing, as if it was the best thing they had ever done. My father was a strong gentle man and he hated war and the remembrance of it.
But he also loved his fellow soldiers, fought with Veterans Affairs on their behalf, getting several men pensions who had been previously denied. I came to hate that department on his behalf. Things haven’t changed much.
So most years I don’t wear the poppy and don’t remain silent at 11 a.m. But this year is different. I was at the Cenotaph when a mad man with a gun killed Nathan Cirillo and I can never forget that. So this year I am wearing the poppy and I will be silent.
Photo credit: No Mans Land, Flanders Field, France, 1919 (Library of Congress). Modified.