Ontario to introduce legislation to allow workers to wear poppies after ‘disgusting and disgraceful’ Whole Foods ban

poppy Ontario Premier Doug Ford introducing legislation to allow workers across Ontario to wear poppies in the workplace.

The Ontario government will introduce new legislation to allow employees to wear poppies in the workplace after a Whole Foods ban that Premier Doug Ford characterized as “disgusting and disgraceful”.

Whole Foods Market, a U.S. grocery chain owned by Amazon.com, banned poppy-wearing under its recently updated uniform policy, which affects employees at its 14 locations across Canada.

An employee in Ottawa said they were told by a store manager that wearing a poppy could be viewed as “supporting a cause” and that “if they allowed this one particular cause, then it would open up the door so that they would have to allow or consider allowing other causes.”

Ford said the proposed legislation will be explored next week when his team returns from Ottawa, where the were Friday conducting a press conference about the COVID-19 recovery. The new law is expected to forbid companies in Canada from barring workers from wearing poppies in the workplace during the annual week of remembrance that culminates on Remembrance Day in Canada on Nov. 11.

The news comes after Ontario Premier Doug Ford expressed disdain for the poppy ban during today’s press conference in Ottawa and on Twitter this morning. “I find it absolutely disgusting and disgraceful. It’s disrespectful when it comes to honouring our heroes, our veterans,” he said.

Poppy is an endearing symbol of sacrifice

“I never want to see any company in Ontario do this again. The poppy is an endearing symbol of sacrifice and appreciation for all our veterans. We will always respect and stand up for our heroes,” he added.

Ford said the individual who made the poppy ban decision at Whole Foods “isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer” and called for the company to apologize and reverse the decision immediately.

During the week of Nov. 11, Canadians wear poppies as a symbol of remembrance for the soldiers and veterans who have sacrificed and died to protect Canada’s freedom. The tradition was first introduced to Canada in 1915, when Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae penned the poem “In Flanders Fields” (below), which referenced poppies that sprung up on the graves of fallen soldiers in France and Belgium after the First World War.

The poppy is worn each year during the Remembrance period to honour Canada’s fallen soldiers. The Royal Canadian Legion also encourages the wearing of a poppy at the funeral of a veteran and for any commemorative event honouring fallen soldiers. 

In Flanders Fields
by Robert 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.

Learn More:

How to wear a poppy