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Confessions of a poppy beader

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Recently I have heard a few different stories in the paper about how the Canadian Legion has been unhappy with the rise of poppy alterations this year. For instance, First Nations people bead their own version -- sometimes still with four red petals and others with one petal for each corner of the Medicine Wheel.

First I want to make it clear that many people who have beaded or created their own poppy did also donate to the "official" poppy campaign or donated to wonderful groups such as Wounded Warriors.

No one here was cheap or cheating out veterans of their dues. The very fact that anyone insinuated that these First Nations beaders are trying to cheat the system is ludicrous and in fact disparages community members who wanted to put a special, personal touch to the ceremony. These poppies are either made by veterans themselves, their families or school groups

It was considered a duty in many First Nation communities to send their young off across the big water to European shores.

The federal government says more than 7,000 Aboriginal soldiers served in the First and Second World Wars and the Korean War, along with an unknown number of Inuit, Metis and non-status native Canadians.

The CBC reported on Cree veteran Joy Ward-Dockrey, who created a poppy made of red and black beads. "They come from the heart of our people," said Ward-Dockrey, an official with the Canadian Aboriginal Veterans and Serving Members Association.

"We are not trying to stand out and say we are better. It is something we do for ourselves as Aboriginal people to respect what happened to us and our healing journey."

Richard Blackwolf, president of the Canadian Aboriginal Veterans, said the handmade poppies are not mass produced. 

In a less culturally charged issue, other groups have been tinkering with the poppy -- mostly to keep it falling off people's shirts or collars 20 minutes after you buy one.

In an attempt to keep the poppy on your lapel, Doug Michetti, from Calgary, is the man behind the idea of the new poppy pin centres. Michetti is a longtime legion member and volunteer, and states that that branches sell his pins to the public for $3 each. He says he charges them "less than half that" for each pin and it costs him a dollar to make a pin. He keeps any remaining profit, but declined to provide more details. Necessity creates need.

Joan Lepidus, who is on the executive of the No. 1 Legion in Calgary, told the CBC that she has replaced her straight pin for a lapel pin poppy centre. While some in the Legion fear that this small step will lead to the commercialization of the pins -- other issue with the beaded pins mentioned above, other see it a vast improvement.

Amanda Moore posted on her Facebook page, "One of the Legion members in Calgary developed this pin for the poppies. I purchased five today from an elderly veteran and we had a great discussion about it! I think it would be awesome if other legions would join forces with them as I believe we would see more poppies around if we had a better way of securing them! I have been informed today (November 10) that the powers that be from the legion do not approve of this pin. I still believe it is the best option out there and support all the legion members selling the pins!"

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Keep Karl on Parl

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