I AM From a Military Family and I Hate Remembrance Day

The Poppy is Nothing but a Symbol of Hypocrisy

Graphic Nadine Abdellatif

Every November, the sea of poppies becomes drier and maybe that’s for the better. It means less people are buying into the nationalist lie that soldiers die for a just cause.

I stopped wearing the poppy two years ago. The main reason for this sudden change of heart is that the poppy is a false symbol of respect. We aren’t respecting our veterans  more if we wear the poppy than if we don’t. In fact, if we really respected our veterans, we wouldn’t sit idly while the government tosses aside so-called war heroes like garbage once they are no longer fit to serve. 

My brother joined the army when I was one year old, serving in Afghanistan twice and in other places countless times. I was raised believing soldiers were heroes and eventually learned they are mere pawns in wars between imperialist nations and against nations of the global south. I was told the poppy symbolizes peace, but it symbolizes war. There is nothing peaceful about death and imperialism. 

Veterans make up approximately five per cent of Montreal’s homeless population and less than two per cent of Canada’s entire population. A contributing factor to veteran homelessness are the challenges soldiers face when reintegrating into civilian society after being in active duty. It’s estimated that approximately ten per cent of soldiers who have been deployed have a post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis, and 25 per cent of Canadians who served in Afghanistan receive disability benefits due to a mental health diagnosis related to their deployment. According to Veterans Affairs, mental health conditions are the second-most common reason for disability claims among Afghanistan veterans.

On one hand, veterans who apply to receive disability benefits must wait on average ten months; wait times are even longer for women and Francophones. On the other hand, Bill C-7 removed a crucial requirement for medical assistance in dying in March 2021; that is, individuals for whom death is not necessarily imminent can now qualify. The minimum assessment period to apply for MAID is 90 days. 

There has already been at least one reported case of a veteran resorting to MAID and a second “fe[eling] pressured as a result” of their doctor bringing up this option repeatedly when the veteran was seeking treatment for PTSD and a traumatic brain injury. 

Growing up, I was told to respect veterans, but our health care system processes requests for legal suicide faster than they process requests for disability benefits. The poppy is a symbol of hypocrisy, pure and simple.

While I understand people have their own reasons for wearing the poppy, I regret having been such a proud supporter of the red pin for 15 years. In reality, I only wore the poppy at the age of five because I wanted to show solidarity with my brother, not because I cared about the historical meaning of the flower. 

Even as I got older, I didn’t want to believe that the poppy glorified war, choosing instead to believe it preached peace. A part of me still isn’t sure if poppies glorify war or rather minimize the long-term effects of war on civilians and soldiers alike by claiming to be a symbol of peace. Two truths can co-exist.