Air Canada released an internal memo to staff telling them they were banned from wearing the Remembrance Day poppy, only to face an immediate backlash.
The poppy is an important symbol in Canada, just as it is in the UK, as it represents the war dead and veterans of wars fought since the First World War. However Canada’s largest airline, Air Canada, decided to ban its employees from wearing the poppy, reports the National Post.
The leaked internal memo, written by Air Canada’s vice-president of in-flight service Renée Smith-Valade, discouraged staff from wearing a poppy while on duty. “I strongly encourage anyone who wants to wear a poppy to observe and respect Remembrance Day to do so when not in uniform,” the memo read.
The memo also added that the airline would instead commemorate Remembrance Day with an in-flight announcement.
Managers at the airline soon instructed employees to remove any poppies or poppy symbols from their uniforms but were met with an immediate backlash from staff. Many of the Air Canada employees are former military servicemen and may have taken offence at not being able to wear the poppy.
Following the involvement of the employee union, Mr. Smith-Valade wrote another memo hours later saying “wearing of poppies is supported”.
The airline told the National Post: “We do have regulations on non-service pins to maintain a consistent uniform look,” but added: “We have clarified for our in-flight crews that they can wear a poppy in uniform and do so proudly.”
The international football association FIFA recently imposed a similar ban, and threatened to penalise the English and Scottish national sides if they wore the poppy on their football kits. Following public outrage, supporters of both teams urged the player to wear the poppies despite threats from FIFA. In the end, the teams stood firm and will wear poppies regardless of the actions of FIFA.
The poppy has also become a symbol for many Islamic extremists of what they refer to as “Western imperialism”. Islamic groups in the UK have, in the past, burned poppies, have urged fellow Muslims to reject the poppy appeal, and protested at Remembrance Day ceremonies.
The actions of the Islamists, according to former English Defence League founder and leader Tommy Robinson, were a major reason for the formation of the EDL.