Lew Forth felt a heavy burden Monday as he stocked Legion poppy tables across Nanaimo.
With just days until Remembrance Day, the Nanaimo Poppy Campaign chair told CHEK News he’s recorded a big drop in donations across the mid-Island city, and veterans are reporting seeing fewer people wearing the bright red symbol over their hearts this year.
“There’s less people wearing them today than the last couple of years,” said Forth.
“It’s not the older people, it’s the young people. They just walk away without even looking at us. But I always say, ‘Hi,'” said Legion volunteer Ivana Lunardon, as she sat behind a poppy table at a Nanaimo mall Monday.
The drop in support is hitting home with retired servicemen and women at Nanaimo’s Royal Canadian Legion Branch 256.
“Hurt. Why people are not honouring our vets, I don’t understand,” said Gary Robertson, a veteran and the current service officer for the branch.
“There’s no respect for them anymore. And why is that?” said Joann Walton, whose late husband John served proudly in Canada’s military and returned with medals and PTSD.
“Yes, it’s really more this year,” said Walton.
According to the Royal Canadian Legion, the poppy campaign in B.C. traditionally raises about $4 million each year, with all money raised going to support veterans in their communities, including providing trauma counselling and service dogs to members.
This year’s total won’t be known until mid-November, and officials wouldn’t say if the drop in donations being seen in Nanaimo, where food bank use is up 30 per cent from 2022, is part of a larger trend.
Forth said he knows many people are struggling, and if they can’t afford to give anything, they don’t have to.
“Then just take a poppy. We want you to wear a poppy just to show that you remember,” said Forth.