Whole Foods backs down on banning poppies at work

Whole Foods grocery chain has reversed its ban on employees wearing poppies at work, according to Veterans Minister Lawrence MacAulay.

“Just spoke to the chief operating officer of Whole Foods. Employees will now be able to wear their poppies at work,” MacAulay said in a tweet Friday afternoon.

“It’s deeply personal to everyone here. Glad to hear they’re changing course.”

U.S.-based Whole Foods Market had said poppies weren’t allowed under its recently updated uniform policy, which affects employees at its 14 locations across Canada — but the company wouldn’t say why.

An employee of the Whole Foods in Ottawa told CBC News she was told by a supervisor that wearing the poppy would be seen as “supporting a cause.” The Whole Foods uniform consists of an apron, coat or vest, a hat and name badge.

Poppies are offered in exchange for donations to the Royal Canadian Legion. The donations are an important source of revenue for the legion that go toward helping ex-servicemen and women buy food, and obtain shelter and medical attention. Traditionally, they’re removed after 11 a.m. on Nov. 11.

MacAulay had earlier called the move by Whole Foods “absolutely unacceptable,” stating that the poppy is an important symbol of remembrance.

WATCH | Prime minister addresses Whole Foods’ poppy policy:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke to reporters during a pandemic briefing Friday. 0:53

Earlier Friday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said he would make it illegal for businesses in the province to prohibit employees from wearing poppies, after Whole Foods said it had no plans to reverse the policy.

“I find it absolutely disgraceful. I find it disgusting,” he told reporters in Ottawa on Friday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also told reporters Friday that the grocery chain was making a “silly mistake.”

Legion branches across Canada have been struggling from loss of revenue due to the pandemic and some have expressed fears this year’s poppy campaign will bring in significantly fewer donations.

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