By Jessie Archambault
An Algonquin graduate is at the center of the white poppy pins campaign that is part of a student activist group to remember peace on Nov. 11.
“Our goal is not to offend anybody,” said Celyn Dufay, 25. “We want to provide another vehicle to get young Canadians involved in Remembrance Day ceremonies.”
A group of five students from post-secondary schools in Ottawa had been distributing one-inch wide pins. The pin reads “I Remember For Peace” over top a printed white poppy.
The white poppy is usually associated with anti-war movements and remembrance of casualties of war.
“Pins are free, there’s no donations required,” said Dufay.
Some still consider this a rivalry with the traditional red poppies the veterans distribute for donations in early November.
“It would be a decent idea with good meaning if it was on any other day of the year,” said Joe Tobin, who spent five years in the Forces as a signal operator. “But to try and steal the traditional poppies’ thunder is an insult to all those who served and currently serve.” Tobin spent studied for a semester at Algonquin in the electrician technique program.
But some like the idea.
“The pro-peace message is very honourable,” said Brigitte Roberge, a University of Ottawa human kinetic student who isn’t affiliated with the campaign. “It’s an important thing to promote.”
A press conference took place a week before Remembrance Day and the campaign was officially launched.
David Stripp, a graduate of the advertising program at Algonquin, prefers the red poppy.
“I don't think Remembrance Day was never a celebration of anything,” he wrote in an email. “It's a day to remember. Remember the sacrifice of soldiers, the price of war and yes, the necessity of it.”
He adds that peace is a noble goal but the campaign is flawed for claiming young people don’t want to celebrate war on Remembrance Day.
“We must remember the sacrifices so that it doesn’t happen again,” said Stripp.
“I think (the white poppy campaign) is completely disrespectful,” said Tobin, 23.
Only 2,500 white poppy pins were made in comparison to the millions of red poppies produced for the veterans each year.
“I’ve distributed 800 of them on (University of Ottawa) campus,” he said. “We only have a couple hundred left.”
The student activists are working alongside Cease Fire, an online initiative to promote peace and disarmament based in Ottawa. Cease Fire is a social activist network of supporters nation-wide. They are affiliated with the Rideau Institute which funded the production of the pins.
The campaign originated on Cease Fire’s website as an online only initiative. The student activists were put in charge of materializing it through the white poppy pins.
“It’s an experimental phase of transforming the online campaign,” said Dufay who now studies political science and history at the University of Ottawa.
Every year, Roberge proudly wears her red poppy to honour her friend, an Afghanistan veteran. But this year, she considered Dufay’s pins.
“I would wear the two together because of the messaging on the pin,” she said.