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Canada’s Remembrance Day poppy goes digital

Margaret Atwood, Don Cherry, Ashley Callingbull and others join the Royal Canadian Legion in introducing the digital poppy

In a historic first, the Royal Canadian Legion’s Remembrance Day Poppy is available in a digital format as part of an online fundraising campaign that is the first of its kind in the world.

To complement the traditional lapel poppy, a new digital version is available at until Remembrance Day, Nov. 11. Canadians are able to personalize, dedicate and share their poppy online — and add their own family stories and images — as their pledge to never forget those who served and sacrificed for our freedom.

This first-ever digital poppy launch is being supported by a number of leading Canadian personalities, athletes and organizations, including recording artist Justin Bieber, artistic luminaries Margaret Atwood and Sandra Oh, former Mrs. Universe Ashley Callingbull and Hockey Night in Canada’s Don Cherry and Ron MacLean. Several organizations including the National Hockey League Players’ Association, the Teamsters Union of Canada and, are also participating. The campaign is supported by TELUS.

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Don Cherry dedicated his digital poppy to his great uncle Sergeant Thomas William MacKenzie. Photo Royal Canadian Legion

 “For every Canadian, the bright red poppy stands for our country’s greatest values and the debt we owe to the brave souls who put everything on the line to fight for us,” said Cherry in a press release. “I’m dedicating my digital poppy to my great uncle, Sergeant Thomas William MacKenzie who died in battle four days before Armistice Day in 1918.”

Danny Martin, deputy director of the Royal Canadian Legion, said Canadians have enthusiastically supported the Legion’s lapel poppy campaign for many years and the traditional on-street donations will continue across the country.

“But in an increasingly cashless society, we wanted to give people another way to support their veterans,” said Martin. “The Legion’s new digital poppy campaign will allow people to donate online and share their remembrance in a meaningful, personalized manner.”

 Once downloaded, the digital poppy can be posted on the donor’s social media feeds of their choosing, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn. Digital poppy owners will also have the option to use their digital poppy as their profile images as well as adding personal stories and significant photos to their postings.

Digital poppy ambassadors are telling their own stories as they commit to sharing their digital Poppy this year.

"I'm dedicating my digital poppy to Brigadier General T.G. Gibson, my spouse Graeme's father," said Canadian literary icon Margaret Atwood. "He fought in World War Two in Italy and then through Holland and into Germany. The main street of Deventer in Holland is named after him, as he and his troops were able to liberate it without destroying it, thanks to information smuggled to him by the Resistance. There are many Canadian soldiers buried there, and the schoolchildren place white roses on their graves every Easter."

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Activist, actor and former Mrs. Universe Ashley Callingbull dedicated her digital poppy to her great grandfather, Maxime Papin, who along with many Indigenous Canadians served with distinction in the Canadian military. Photo Royal Canadian Legion

International model, actor and activist, Ashley Callingbull tells a particularly poignant story.

“I’m working with to re-connect with my great grandfather, Maxime Papin, who along with many Indigenous Canadians served with distinction in the Canadian military. My digital poppy is dedicated to him and I’m asking my social media followers to do the same in support of our veterans.”

All funds raised from both the traditional lapel and the new digital poppy are directed to the Legion’s Poppy Fund. This is the first time that Canadians will be able to donate online in such a manner. The Poppy Fund is a significant fundraising initiative for the Legion and supports essential programs and services for all of Canada’s veterans, including Canadian Armed Forces and RCMP and their families.

“Donations made via will be distributed to a Legion branch that is nearest the donor’s address,” said Martin. “In this way, funds support local, community-based initiatives for veterans.”

 The introduction of the digital Poppy, and the opportunity for online donations, represents a fresh, invigorated approach to the Legion’s annual national poppy campaign as it presents a new, modernized source of funding for the Legion’s Poppy Fund. It’s designed to reach younger audiences of potential donors who recognize and embrace the impact and power of social media-based initiatives like the digital poppy.