In the midst of the media focus today on honoring soldiers who died in wars past - all that footage of Canadian troops trudging through hell and the laying of wreaths by anguished family members - peace activists are asking for a little air time for the civilians caught in the crossfire, and for a consideration of the alternatives to armed conflict.
During rush hour on Friday, members of the Canadian Voices of Women for peace gathered in front of the CBC on John St. and Front, to hand out white poppies, which have been gaining traction as an international symbol of commemoration for civlizians brutalized and killed in war. And while the Royal Canadian Legion has expressed its unhappiness with what they believe is the white emblem's intrusion on their memorial day, non-violence advocates say there is ample room for both red and white expressions.
"The white poppy is a way to draw attention to all of those who have suffered during the war, including civilians," says Lyn Adamson, a non-violent resistance trainer and VOW co-chair.
It's not a question of the white poppy replacing the red, she says - we should all honor fallen soldiers. But the combination of the two amplifies the message of remembrance, and a commitment to replace war with unarmed conflict resolution.
The group has already given out the white flower at their workplaces and to students who have worn them during school Remembrance Day ceremonies.
The white poppy was initiated in the 30's by a womens anti-militarist group in Britain. VOW started officially supporting the campaign two years ago but has been giving out the poppies on a grassroots level since their founding in 1960.
Many peace advocates have noted that Remembrance Day ceremonies appear to glorify armed battles and the culture of war. Many have been looking for a way to inject the idea that political leaders should privilege diplomacy and mediation over arms build-ups. And they want the day to incorporate a celebration of Canadians' fine tradition of resisting war and welcoming conscientious objectors, a tradition described in this video by Conscience Canada.
They also hope to convey their empathy for what soldiers and their families endure.
"I respect the red poppies but it is also important to recognize the results of collateral damage'' and the consequences of war, says Hannah Hadikin, from the B.C. VOW chapter, as she offers up the white peace flower to those streaming past her on Front.
Hadikin and other VOW members across the country are in town to attend the group's annual conference timed for Remembrance Day. Sessions include discussions on women as bridge-builders and new strategies for extending the reach of anti-militarist ideas.
One enthusiastic passerby eagerly accepts the white poppy, saying he intends to don both colours. "I'll probably wear the red one on my left and the white one on my right," says Steve Ganyu. "At the end of the day, both are for a good cause, and one shouldn't be replaced by the other."