Poppies are distributed for donations. This venerable symbol of Remembrance is provided for public or personal display as either a lapel poppy, or as included in wreaths, crosses and sprays which are laid at cenotaphs or other memorials at home and abroad. Donations are not mandatory and in some cases—as for example with school children—poppies are distributed solely to perpetuate the tradition of Remembrance among Canadians without any expectation of remuneration.
The poppies distributed during the Poppy Campaign are intended to remind Canadians of the debt owed to the more than 117.000 Canadians who died in the military, Merchant Navy and Ferry Command services of Canada during two world wars, the Korean War and other theatres throughout the world. Donations received during the campaign are held in trust and, in accordance with the rules established for the trusts, are used throughout the year to assist needy veterans, ex-service members and their families. Former members of the Commonwealth and allied military services may also be eligible to receive benefits from these funds.
Poppy emblems were first made in 1922 by disabled veterans under the sponsorship of the Department of Soldiers Civil Re-establishment. Until 1996, poppy material was made at sheltered workshops run by Veterans Affairs Canada in Montreal and Toronto. The work provided a small source of income for disabled ex-service persons and their dependants, allowing them to take an active part in maintaining the tradition of Remembrance. That mandate has now ended and the manufacturing is being done by a private company.
During the Poppy Campaign some 18 million poppies and 70,000 wreaths, crosses and sprays are distributed across Canada and overseas annually.
More than $8 million in campaign funds are also distributed annually. Some of the activities supported by donations to Poppy Trust Funds include:
- Assisting needy veterans, ex-service members and their families;
- The purchase of medical appliances and the provision of medical research bursaries;
- Providing bursaries to the children and grandchildren of veterans and ex-service members;
- The purchase, construction and maintenance of housing and care facilities for veterans, seniors and disabled persons;
- The funding of drop-in centres for adults, meals-on-wheels, transport and related services;
- 0peration of the Dominion Command Service Bureau.