This practice was inspired by Canadian Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae's poem In Flanders Field. The poppies, which are offered by the Royal Canadian Legion each year, are available on street corners, in storefronts and at federal buildings such as banks and post offices for a voluntary donation. The funds earned provide assistance to past servicemen and women in financial distress, and for medical-related services.
Another touching, fairly new (since 2000) tradition takes place in Ottawa after the ceremonies and wreath-laying has occurred. Veterans and civilians alike remove their poppies after the service, and lay them on top of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It's a very moving gesture and sight. It was at this National War Memorial where Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was gunned down while standing guard less than three weeks ago. He and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, murdered two days earlier in Quebec will be among those we will remember with heavy hearts.
Today, at the eleventh hour, with red poppies pinned close to our hearts, Canadians across our nation will share two minutes of silent reflection and respect to remember those who served our country.
Two minutes for those whose hearts ceased beating far too soon.
Two minutes for countless, selfless acts of courage given in exchange for our freedom.
Two minutes for indescribable sacrifice.
It's an honour and a privilege for Canadians to pause to remember and respect those who serve.
At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, please pause to honour those who have given their lives so that we can enjoy the freedom we assume as our right.
May we never forget.
In Flanders Fields
~ John McCrae
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders Fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.