The Royal Canadian Legion’s Year of the Poppy Logo. Credit: Royal Canadian Legion

This year marks 100 years since Toronto and Canada adopted the poppy as the symbol of Remembrance.

“In Flanders fields the poppies grow. Between the crosses, row on row…”

This poem, by Canadian John McCrae, began a movement not just in Canada but also in France. The verses were translated and read in every school in France. On November 11 when red poppies are worn throughout Canada, French children also lay wreaths of bright poppies on the war graves of almost 60,000 Canadians in France.

The poem was written by a Canadian and was elevated to iconic status, so it was only fitting that Canada played a pivotal role in becoming the first Commonwealth country to adopt the poppy. It set an important precedent for other countries in the Commonwealth to follow suit.

Madame Anna Guérin was a key player in a charity, the Inter-Allied Children’s League, representing the women and children of the war-devastated areas of France. The League sold poppies to be worn on Armistice Day, as a memorial to “the boys of Canada and the boys of France who sleep side by side in Flanders fields.”

The idea of using the poppy in commemoration of the war heroes originated in the mind of Madame Guérin, known as the “Poppy Lady.” In the scarlet poppies, she saw the color of the blood of brave soldiers. She had seen this blood so many times in hospitals where she had devoted herself to the care of the wounded and conceived the idea of memorializing the poppy as an emblem of the fallen heroes. She then set out to ensure that all the allied countries used it as a remembrance of those who paid the supreme sacrifice.

Anna Guérin was a guest of the Canadian Great War Veterans’ Association (a forerunner of the Royal Canadian Legion) in Thunder Bay in 1921. The Association accepted the poppy as a symbol that could be sold and worn on November 11. This year marks 100 years since Canada adopted the poppy as the principal symbol of Remembrance.

Madame Guérin travelled across Canada to promote this symbol and to encourage fundraising for veterans and those impacted by the war.

On November 11, 1921, she was at Toronto City Hall to present the wreath for the Veterans Association to the Mayor, to be placed on the Cenotaph. Having brought the idea to Canada, she also brought poppies to Toronto for the observance, the second time the public had gathered formally to mark the armistice.

One hundred years later, Canadians continue to wear poppies and place them on Cenotaphs across Canada to remember all who have fallen in service to the country.

The City of Toronto will mark this milestone anniversary of the poppy with various activities:

The Toronto Sign

The Mayor and Royal Canadian Legion member standing in front of the O in the Toronto Sign with a poppy symbol in the middle
Mayor John Tory and Gerry Morgan, District Commander, Royal Canadian Legion unveil the poppy on November 3, 2021. Credit: City of Toronto photographer

As a legacy of the centennial of the Poppy, the City of Toronto installed a poppy in the last “O” of this iconic sign and landmark.  The poppy  will be lit from November 5 to 11, 2021.  It will also be used in future years on occasions of Remembrance.

Vehicle Decals

Photo of City of Toronto vehicles displaying a poppy decal on the rear of the vehicle
City of Toronto vehicles proudly displaying poppy decals. Credit: City of Toronto

Two thousand City of Toronto vehicles will proudly display the 100th Anniversary of the Poppy logo during Remembrance Week.

Watch for a vehicle in your neighbourhood, take a picture of it and post with the tag #TorontoRemembers.

The City of Toronto’s Year of the Poppy Commemorative Project was funded by the Government of Canada through Veterans Affairs Canada’s Commemorative Partnership Program.

Image of Veterans Affairs Canada logo

On November 9, 2021 at 9:30 am, Toronto City Council will commemorate the Year of the Poppy with a special guest and remarks from Mayor Tory. Watch Toronto City Council live

John Tory Mayor of Toronto - Proclamation

The Year of the Poppy

 July 6, 2021

WHEREAS Madame Anna Guérin of France, inspired by John McCrae’s poem “In Flanders Fields,” suggested poppies be distributed on Armistice Day as a way to raise funds for veterans while remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice during the First World War.

On July 6, 1921, Canada adopted the poppy when the Great War Veterans Association, now known as the Royal Canadian Legion, formally recognized it as a symbol of remembrance at its annual meeting.

This year marks the 100th year of the use of the Remembrance Poppy in Canada as a visual symbol and reminder to never forget those who gave their lives for our freedoms.

Poppies are seen throughout our city in schools, community organizations and local businesses in the days leading up to November 11, thanks to the work of Royal Canadian Legion volunteers. During this challenging time, it has been difficult for the Legion to reach the public and collect donations that are vital to the services they offer. As we begin to enter the recovery stage, I encourage residents to support their work by making donations in our communities this fall.

During this Year of the Poppy and every year on Remembrance Day, we acknowledge and support the Royal Canadian Legion in its important work of providing services to veterans and their families. We are encouraged to be a part of this remembrance by purchasing and wearing poppies from the last Friday in October until November 11.

NOW THEREFORE, I, Mayor John Tory, on behalf of Toronto City Council, do hereby proclaim 2021 as “The Year of the Poppy” in the City of Toronto.