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Comrade Colin Robinson assists a member of the public with her donation. Photo credit: Global News Montreal

Article posted by  October 31, 2020:

COVID-19 poses problems for Quebec legions’ poppy campaign

Members of The Royal Montreal Regiment were busy Saturday afternoon handing out poppies to shoppers at the entrance of Westmount’s Metro grocery store.

Along with legion branches across Quebec, the branch kicked off its annual campaign on Friday, Oct. 30. The poppy campaign is the Quebec legions’ largest and only fundraiser.

The Royal Montreal Regiment was able to distribute poppies at its traditional locations despite the coronavirus pandemic, with added safety measures.

“We’re giving sanitizer to our own volunteers, masks are being provided, and shields are being provided if they need them,” said Colin Robinson, Royal Montreal Regiment honorary colonel. “Members must also follow a checklist ahead of their volunteering to make sure they haven’t exhibited any COVID-19 related symptoms.”

In order to maintain proper distancing, people buying poppies must also pick them up off the table, instead of getting it placed on their chest by legion members.

The Royal Montreal Regiment has a large number of members like Robinson, young volunteers who are not considered at high-risk from COVID-19; but for his fellow elderly members, the decision to volunteer was their own.

“Part of becoming a member of the legion is you pledge an oath to participate in the poppy campaign every year,” said Robinson. “We wanted to make it crystal clear to everybody that they were excused from the obligations of the oath this year because their health and their safety is the number one priority.”

That directive was echoed by provincial president of the Quebec command, Ken Ouellet, who said given the average age of their members, which is 75, “we left it up to the branch if they were to hold a poppy campaign or not.”

When given the option, the LaSalle branch decided against volunteers handing out poppies. Instead, they delivered 50 poppy donation boxes to grocery stores and seniors homes in the borough.

Without having volunteers in-person, LaSalle branch president Bruce Allen said he fears the branch will make a mere 10 per cent of the $25,000 he says they typically make.

“This year is going to be the toughest year for sure,” he said.

Allen and first vice Jim Leblanc are still pleading for people to buy poppies.

“None of the poppy money stays with the legion for work here, it’s just to help the veterans out themselves,” said Leblanc.

One hundred per cent of the funds go to community services that help feed and house veterans like the Old Brewery Mission.

“The Old Brewery Mission has a homeless veterans committee, where they’ve taken 18 homeless veterans off the streets in the last couple of years who have their own lodgings, who now have their own apartments,” said Robinson. “These kind of programs are at-risk if we can’t receive the donations that we need.”

Adapting to the current world, COVID-19 has forced the Royal Montreal Regiment to take technological steps they should have made years ago to secure online donations, according to Robinson.

“We’ve already set up a donation page so people can make donations online at royalmontrealregiment.com,” he said.

Legion members agree it’s important to wear a poppy and make a donation, but the campaign is about more than that.

They’re asking people to practice their own act of Remembrance this Nov. 11 to honour the sacrifices of Canada’s veterans.

Original story can be viewed here.

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