Poppies planted in remembrance of Canadian war dead

NANAIMO – Gabriola Island and Nanaimo get involved in poppy-planting campaigns to recognize the sacrifice of Canadians.

One poppy will bloom at Nanaimo’s cenotaph for every Canadian killed during the First World War.

This week marks the centennial of the Great War, and this region’s residents and local government are remembering the sacrifice of Canadians through poppy-planting campaigns.

Gabriola Island has already seen flowers bloom, thanks to an earlier effort to encourage residents to plant poppies, while the City of Nanaimo plans to sow 67,000 seeds at its cenotaph gardens this year to commemorate the loss of Canadians.

“The tradition of using red poppies to commemorate the sacrifice of those who gave their lives in the service of Canada is one of the most recognizable symbols of remembrance we mark as Canadians,” said Coun. Diana Johnstone, chairwoman of the city’s parks, recreation and culture commission. “This poppy-planting initiative is a fitting way for Nanaimo’s residents, old and young, to mark the 100th anniversary of the commencement of World War One.”

The outbreak of the war happened on July 28, 1914 when Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. By Aug. 4, Britain  – and Canada – had joined the conflict.

Second World War veteran Peter Eastick heard stories of the Great War – the trenches and gas attacks – from his father, who fought for Britain in France. It was part of his growing up and it’s historically important, he said.

“I think it’s something we should remember. It’s like the Second World War. I am a veteran and I don’t want people to forget it,” he said. “I want people to know what we did … and what happened. I want the children to know. It’s Canadian history.”

Gabriola resident Jane Ferland’s grandfather, who was a farmer from Kincardine, Ont., became a sniper in the First World War. She found planting poppies, “a very poignant thing to do.”

“I don’t think any generation should forget about world conflicts,” she said. “It’s a reminder of how fragile world peace is.”

Area residents interested in planting poppies in their own gardens can call the city’s horticulture supervisor Gail Pasaluko at 250-755-7540 for seeds.