Poppy Power: Prince Edward County Defends Veterans Rights

David Sutton standing outside Picton McDonalds collecting donations on Thursday, November 3, 2016

Update for November 8, 2016: From Dan Doyle, owner of Picton McDonalds, I wanted to reach out about the situation that was referenced. As a proud local businessman and member of the community, I am happy to support local charities and initiatives like PECMH, Hospice, Quinte Children’s Foundation and the Roc just to name a few. In terms of the Drive-Thru, for the safety and security of all our guests and employees, we do not permit individuals who are not in vehicles to be near, or use our Drive-Thrus. We are happy to work with the local legion to arrange for a Royal Canadian Legion veteran or authorized volunteer to distribute poppies in person inside the restaurant.

UPDATE: From Dianne Kennedy, Vice-President of the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 78:

This incident got blown all out of proportion. Friday, Dave Sutton was asked to move away from the drive through cause he was holding up the line. He moved, but was not asked to leave.

The County is always exceptionally poised for a fight to defend the seemingly defenceless. The fine people of Prince Edward County are passionate and fierce when it comes to certain issues, recently it was the cost of the trees on Main Street that got the ires of people stirred into an activated frenzy. The activism of its people is extraordinary.

Recently however, there was an activism of sorts that began on Facebook by a well-intentioned private individual. He felt it was his duty to defend the local veterans in our community. His motives were genuine because what he felt was an injustice against our veterans became his battle cry. Many within our community evidently agreed with him because his social media status was shared over 50 times.

At some point this week, McDonalds management had allegedly requested that the local veteran who was carrying a box of poppies and seeking donation on their property, leave the property and refrain from standing in the drive-thru. Some viewed this as an act of not supporting our local veterans, whether this is true or not is yet to be determined.

A young Doug Pitt, former President of the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 78 on his way to a November 11th parade.

Tabitha Kay,  former Director of Public Relations for the Royal Canadian Legion was eager to attempt to steer the discussion in a different light. She maintained that the Legion’s policy is to never publicly shame a local business for refusing Poppy donations from being collected on their site. Doug Pitt, former President of the Royal Canadian Legion was quick to point out that the poppies are not sold, they are free. If the community would like to offer a donation then by all means there are plenty of other places within which to do so. It is not the Legion’s place to engage in a social media war.

Walk into Picton McDonalds at any point between 8am and 11am and you will encounter a restaurant full of seniors, a lot of whom are Legion members. They sit and visit with one another, and on occasion the owner, Dan Doyle will be among them. Picton McDonalds is not the enemy, and their reasons for not allowing poppy collection on their property is not known. This is not a reason to boycott their business entirely. Creating a divisive dialogue in light of what Remembrance Day stands for is counter-productive. The conversation should be instead focused on how we can further assist the Legion in their fundraising efforts. And while this time of year is definitely their main drive to help raise funds, Tabitha said that donations can be given all year round.

debt-we-cannot-payTabitha Kay said that when she first became a member she was one of the youngest to join. She learned from the “good old boys”. The biggest lesson she learned was that it was important to “respect what was before you.” Even though she is not able to continue her membership for the time being, she is an ardent advocate. The Legion has been helping to support our veterans for 90 years. They need our financial support now more than ever because the donations have been dwindling over the years. The gentleman on Facebook was well-intentioned but ultimately damaging because it created a negative atmosphere and associated The Legion’s name with controversy. The rant that went viral should have focused more on encouraging further donations, not boycotting a business. There were plenty of other businesses with Legion members standing outside including (but not limited to) The LCBO, The Beer Store, Sobey’s, Tim Horton’s, Home Hardware, and No Frills. Further still, there are a variety of other stores and businesses in town who never had a Legion member stand outside their establishment, and there is never an outcry to boycott their services. In order to support our veterans, boycotting a business does nothing to help them, but making an intentional donation does.

thanks-for-givingIt’s easy to repost an angry rant on social media, that’s why an impassioned Facebook post was able to spread so fast. And it is a testimony to how the people of this County feel about their veterans. To be fiercely protective of them is admirable. Instead of promoting anger and punishing a local business it would be far more admirable to instead promote support by how  and where the community can donate rather than where they can not.

*At the time of the publication, Dan Doyle was unavailable for comment. Should he be reached, this post will be edited to include his statement, should he choose to offer one.

After speaking with one of the Legion representatives, it has been clarified that BOTH McDonald’s and Tim Horton’s had asked the Legion representatives to move away from Drive Thru, but McDonalds had been fantastic about it going the extra mile and bringing out the gentleman a coffee. Both Legion members happily complied and they were able to remain collecting outside the establishments for the duration of the poppy drive.

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