Why white poppies?

Seen as an alternative or addition to the traditional red poppy, white poppies take remembrance one step further.

Every November, millions of Canadians wear the red poppy flower in the days leading up to Nov. 11 as a symbol of remembrance in respect for the veterans who died in the First World War. Sporting the poppy has been a practice in Commonwealth countries and the United States since the early 20th century. 

It was originally inspired by the poem “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae, a Canadian doctor and soldier who was inspired by the sight of poppies growing in a battlefield following his friend’s death. The donations that the Royal Canadian Legion raises through the distribution of poppies are used to support Canadian veterans and their families. 

That’s the red poppy in a nutshell, but you may also have spotted white poppies this Remembrance Day. A symbol of  remembrance for civilian casualties, the white poppy can be worn as an alternative or addition to the red poppy.  Vancouver Peace Poppies describes the white poppy initiative as a means to end the normalization of war and the glorification of the military, and work towards a global message of peace. The goal is to delve deeper into the topic of war and consider the full effects it has on people, the environment, and society at large. 

Despite its controversial nature, the white poppy is a welcomed addition for many. Personally, I appreciate that the white poppy aims to challenge the commonly-accepted discourse around war and inspires complex conversations.     

The white poppy was first distributed by The Women’s Co-operative Guild in 1933. This United Kingdom-based pacifist organization was dedicated to working-class issues, and therefore had a vested interest in civilian affairs. Since they began promoting the white poppy, it has been especially popular in the UK, with thousands sporting the symbol. 

Naturally, this practice has stirred controversy. Some consider the white poppy disrespectful and argue that the idea is reductive. It has raised questions surrounding the issue of copyright, seeing as the Royal Canadian Legion has trademarked the poppy symbol. In terms of ideology, it could be argued that the white poppy piggybacks on the red poppy, and that the original should be left alone.

The red poppy itself is often contested too, however. Robert Fisk, a British journalist and correspondent in the Middle East, argued in Independent that the red poppy has become a racist symbol as it only acknowledges Western soldiers and not the many casualties in foreign countries. I do agree that the culture of Remembrance Day can feel a bit absolute at times, with no room to discuss issues such as the one that Fisk presents. 

While remembrance is important, and the sacrifice of veterans should be acknowledged, the conversation should not end there. We need to begin speaking more in depth about topics such as the military, causes of war, and conflict-resolution. 

Next Remembrance Day, you may notice more white poppies. Maybe you’ll even choose to wear one. 


AUKUS Pact: How Will Canada Be Impacted?

The military dealings of Canada’s allies in the Pacific Ocean might play a large role in the future of Chinese-Canadian diplomatic relations.

On Sept. 15, the heads of state of Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States unveiled a trilateral security pact that will serve to expand the three nations’ military influence in the Indo-Pacific region. The pact is more commonly known by its acronym AUKUS.

This deal comes after years of Australia’s tiptoeing on a diplomatic tightrope between American and Chinese partnerships, cementing the nation’s relationship with the U.S. for the near future. The agreement will put into place the construction of tomahawk cruise missiles, extended range joint air-to-surface standoff missiles, long-range anti-ship missiles, and most notably, nuclear-powered submarines, which will all be sent to the Australian military.

According to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the country “received overwhelming support when it came to Australia moving ahead to establish a nuclear submarine fleet for Australia to ensure that we could contribute to the peace and stability of the Indo-Pacific.”

This deal will make use of British and American technologies and resources to build at least eight nuclear-powered submarines, vessels Australia has not acquired until now. The increase in size of Australia’s fleet will make patrolling the Pacific and Indian oceans easier as it looks out for what it perceives to be its biggest threat: China’s growing military presence in the region.

According to Dr. Julian Spencer-Churchill, Concordia political science professor and former Canadian Forces captain, “The issue AUKUS is attempting to solve revolves around power and values. Xi Jinping differs from his predecessors because he is dramatically more totalitarian: he’ll stop at very little to achieve some sense of greatness. Whether that’s the Spratly Islands, Taiwan, or the Uyghurs, he wants it all. These countries [involved in AUKUS] are trying to curtail his influence and get him to back down through military buildups.”

Due to the most prominent feature of AUKUS being Australia’s submarine program, many countries have reacted in a variety of ways, ranging from excitement to condemnation. For instance, the Indian government, which has been in heated armed disputes with China in the Himalayas, welcomed this partnership. The Japanese government has reacted with similar satisfaction due to its disputes with China over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands.

On the other hand, one of the harshest critics of AUKUS has been France, which saw its nearly $66 billion contract with Australia for the construction of diesel-electric submarines scuttled with little notice before the new deal was announced. Another more obvious detractor of this deal is China, which views the trilateral agreement as an impediment to its influence in the Pacific.

On the day AUKUS was announced, many were quick to notice Canada’s absence in the deal. While the Conservative Party was eager to take a stance in favour of joining AUKUS and criticizing Trudeau for not signing on, the Prime Minister stated that Canada had no interest in acquiring nuclear submarines, and that the country had nothing to offer in this matter.

Canada remains a member of the Five Eyes partnership, meaning it will still receive tactical information from the three nations involved in the pact. Critics of the AUKUS deal view it as a stern finger-wag at China, but its long-term impact remains to be seen.

While the tension between the Chinese and Canadian governments is still present, all hope for diplomacy and civility is not lost. On Sept. 24, it was announced that Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, the two Canadians trapped in China for over a thousand days, will be returning home. In return, Meng Wanzhou, a Huawei executive trapped in Canada for just as long, will also be returning to her home country. If the AUKUS nations and their allies choose to pursue a more diplomatic approach, much could be in store on the global political stage.


Graphic by James Fay

Briefs News

World in Brief: Al Qaeda claims fatal shooting, SuperBowl Sunday and National Emergency in Somalia

The Islamist militant group Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) allegedly claimed responsibility for the fatal shooting that happened last December in Pensacola, Florida. A Second Lieutenant from the Royal Saudi Air Force undergoing training in the naval base opened fire at American soldiers before being killed, reported The Concordian. The claim was made on a leaked audio recording, but the militant group did not provide evidence, reported Reuters.

France declared it was sending more military troops to the Sahel desert amid increasing violence from jihadist groups. French military presence will increase from 4,500 to 5,100 soldiers by the end of February in the border zones of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. Defence Minister Florence Parly said in a statement on Sunday that the operation was to increase “pressure against ISIS-GS,” the ISIS group of the Greater Sahara. According to an article in Al-Jazeera, there have been more than 4,000 reported deaths in 2019.

The Kansas City Chiefs were crowned champions of the 54th Super Bowl on Sunday, in Miami. The National Football League team played against five-time winner San Francisco 49ers, who were designated favourites by most oddsmakers initially. But Chiefs star quarterback Patrick Mahomes overcame a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter of the game and brought the team to victory, 31-20, over the 49ers. This year’s halftime show was performed by Jennifer Lopez and Shakira after other artists such as Jay-Z and Rihanna turned down the offer over NFL racism controversies.

On Sunday, Somalia declared a national emergency over a major locust infestation. The Desert locust is a grasshopper species that rapidly devastated huge amounts of crops in the region. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Unions, a locust swarm of one square kilometre can eat the same amount of food in one day as 35,000 people. This puts the upsurge at an even more worrisome level, as the East African country is already experiencing an alarming level of food insecurity.


Graphic by @sundaeghost


Montrealers gather in solidarity with Chilean protests

Protesters in Montreal gathered on Nov. 2 in solidarity with Chilean protests against the government at the Émilie-Gamelin Place.

“People need to believe in making something better and building it together as a society,” said protester Julio Gajardo.
The protesters chanted in Spanish, “a united population will never be defeated!” They performed dances and sang Chilean songs, while others served traditional food, a form of rallying more pacific than the violence occurring in the South-American country.

Turmoil in Chile began amid government decisions to increase subway prices from the equivalent of $1.47 to $1.52, reported the CBC. The same article draws a comparison between military violence and the long-lasting regime of Augusto Pinochet.

“We feel angry, we’re feeling the same way as we did during the dictatorship of 1973,” said Andrea Astral, an organizer of the Montreal protest. “We’re living under the same constitution. But even though we feel a lot of anger, it feels good to see our country fighting for their rights.”

President Sebastián Piñera ordered the police and military forces in Chile to contain the crowds on Oct. 19 after violence erupted among the protesters. The situation has gone viral around the world accusing the Chilean police and military of violating human rights, reported the CBC.

Chile is one of the countries in Latin-America with a major increase in its economy. In fact, its GDP increased by four per cent in the past year, decreasing the rate of poverty. Nevertheless, Chileans are struggling to keep up with the constant increasing prices.

“All pensions are privatized in Chile, except the ones of the military. So if there’s money for the military, why isn’t there for everyone” said Gloria Martinez, a protester in Montreal.

“It feels good, it feels exciting. It’s the least we can do, living here, ” said Gloria Ramirez, another protester. “It’s not enough watching videos, sharing posts on Facebook. The important thing is to participate and be solidary to our people.”

“A feeling of belonging that I haven’t felt in a long time with the Chilean people, seeing that we can join together despite the distance and give support to our families, friends, our grandmothers who are seeing their grandchildren disappear,” Astral said. “We have to be present and do what is possible despite the distance.”


Graphic by @Tiyasha


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