Chris MacLean's picture
Lack of respect for sacrifice at Whole Foods
Posted on Nov 06, 2020

Will Canadians stand silently by as Whole Foods, owned by Amazon, bans the wearing of poppies by its employees?

(Update: the day this issue went public, a loud hue and cry arose from Canadians of all walks of life.)

Apparently the poppy does not "comply" with the Whole Foods uniform policy, and one supervisor reportedly likened it to "supporting a cause."

With this move, the US-based food chain wandered onto a virtual minefield and had to consider its next moves very carefully lest it step onto a financial and reputational landmine.

According to a CBC news report, an employment lawyer said "the poppy could be considered a display of a political belief and thus not fall under Ontario's Human Rights Code, leaving it up to employers to decide whether to allow employees to wear one."

The report didn't clarify whether that lawyer is with the company or not, but the interpretation that a poppy displays a political belief couldn't be further from the truth. The poppy is a symbol of respect that says we remember those who died protecting our freedoms – even the freedom to be disrespectful and to be ignorant of the past. Likewise, it is not a symbol of war, but of sacrifice in the pursuit of peace.

Further proof that the poppy is not a political message and should not be politicized, is evidenced as elected members of all parties, and at all levels of government, joining the chorus to condemn any action that undermines the deep emotional symbolism of respectfully wearing a poppy on the left side, over one's heart, in the days leading up to Remembrance Day.

Kudos to Ontario Premier Doug Ford for showing his heart on his sleeve when he tweeted that he will introduce legislation to make it illegal for businesses in Ontario to prohibit employees from wearing poppies – although I can see many legal roadblocks despite the commendable emotional intent.

A faster and more effective message would be for customers of Whole Foods and Amazon to stop shopping there.

As Royal Canadian Legion branches, which support Canadian Veterans, struggle alongside the rest of us from loss of revenue due to COVID restrictions,  it is anticipated that reduced crowds in stores and banks will reduce donations in the donation boxes this year.

It's up to us to give more, if possible, to make up for this predicted shortfall. As one citizen commented, by avoiding Whole Foods, he was able to donate more in the Legion's poppy box

When American companies come to Canada to do business and take our money, they should contribute to the community, learn our traditions – and should never admit to a lack of respect for those who sacrificed their lives to safeguard the freedoms we sometimes take for granted.

(Update: The message from Canadians was a resounding condemnation – "et voila" Whole Foods quickly abandoned its policy to ban the wearing of poppies by its employees. Another example of the power of the people and a victory for the public voice! Congratulations Canada.)

– Chris MacLean