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Poppies during a pandemic: The Royal Canadian Legion launches new ways to donate to veterans

Touchless donation boxes will be available at 250 locations across Canada
Remembrance Day poppy Canadian Legion Vancouver BC
Remembrance Day poppy / Getty Images

Like many annual traditions, the Royal Canadian Legion's 2020 National Poppy Campaign has been forced to undergo a few changes thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

While British Columbians might not notice veterans out and about, accepting cash donations in return for a felt poppy as they normally would in November, the Remembrance Day fundraiser will continue this year with new touchless donation boxes.

Alongside the traditional poppy boxes that will still be available and accepting cash from coast to coast, 250 “Pay Tribute” boxes are being implemented across the country in partnership with HSBC Bank Canada. This method of donating will be available in most HSBC Bank branches, as well as select retail locations, including three Shoppers Drug Marts in Maple Ridge, Abbotsford and Chilliwack. The boxes will accept fee-free touchless donations in two-dollar increments from any tap-enabled device or card. Donors will be able to take a lapel poppy from the box, just as they would from a traditional box.

“We have more than thirty important partners this year, and traditional donation boxes at 25,000 locations,” said Thomas D. Irvine, CD, dominion president of The Royal Canadian Legion in a release.

“While we’ve had to make some changes because of the pandemic, there are several ways to donate and we are hopeful Canadians will respond as generously as they always do.” 

In addition to the new electronic donation boxes, Canadians can also opt to donate online in order to download a digital poppy. 

Funds collected during the National Poppy Campaign support Canadian veterans and their families, while funds donated locally stay local. 

Amid the pandemic, veterans are expecting to see poppy sales go "way down,” this November, Royal Canadian Legion branch #179 service officer and veteran Reid Lewis told Vancouver Is Awesome last week. In fact, branch #179 president, Pete Salmon, expects this year's campaign to bring in less than half of what is typically garnered.

Despite the predicted financial loss, "the real tragedy is not being able to gather in person for Remembrance Day," Salmon said. 

While many Vancouverites are used to gathering together each Nov. 11 to show their gratitude and respect for Canada's veterans, British Columbians are being asked to stay away from local cenotaphs this year. 

However, they will still be able to mark the occasion virtually. The City of Vancouver plans to host a live-streamed version of the annual Remembrance Day ceremony at Victory Square on Nov. 11—stay tuned to V.I.A.'s website and social channels for more details about how to access it.  

As part of the poppy campaign, iconic Canadian landmarks will also light up in support of the initiative in the days leading up to Nov 11. In B.C., Vancouverites will notice BC Place Stadium illuminated with a  poppy design on Remembrance Day.

“Each year, Canadians show a tremendous amount of gratitude,” said Irvine. “Our fallen Veterans sacrificed for our freedoms and we will always remember them. Through donations to the campaign, Canadians support the Legion’s critical work to help ensure the well-being of serving Veterans. We thank them for their generosity.”

- With files from Sarah Grochowski