Five days before Remembrance Day, the supermarket chain Whole Foods has banned its employees from wearing poppies.
According to an employee at a Whole Foods branch in Ottawa, she was told by her manager to remove her poppy because it was "supporting a cause," 680 News reported.
The policy was criticized by Conservative Opposition Leader Erin O'Toole, who said "the sacrifice of Canadians in the past provides the freedom for a US grocery chain to be stupid today."
"The poppy is not a cause, it is a sign of respect," O'Toole said.
O'Toole published a video statement, saying "it is shameful – and frankly un-Canadian – that Whole Foods is banning their employees from showing respect for our Veterans."
O'Toole himself is a veteran of the Canadian military. "To those of us who have proudly served our country, to those still serving, to the fallen who have paid the ultimate sacrifice – this is not a cause," he continued.
The decision by the grocer was ripped into by many politicians, including Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who described the ban as "disgusting and disgraceful." He further called upon Whole Foods to apologize and change their policy.
O'Toole's campaign chair, Waleid Soliman, pledged to fund the legal defense of any employee who wishes to fight the policy.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh also criticized the move by Whole Foods, arguing that "Canadians shouldn't lose the right to honour the sacrifices of veterans when they go to work." He also compared the company's decision to their ban on Black Lives Matter face masks implemented earlier this year.
MP Michelle Rempel Gardner, Toronto Mayor John Tory, Ontario Liberal Party Leader Stephen Del Duca, Ambassador to the UN Bob Rae, also criticized the move. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau retweeted Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay's criticism of Whole Foods, but did not directly comment on the matter thus far.
While Whole Foods has thus far not reversed the policy, they say that they will nevertheless be donating $8,000 to the poppy campaign and that its employees will still observe the traditional moment of silence at 11:00 a.m. on Nov. 11.
According to a tweet from Kris Pangilinan of CP24, Whole Foods said that they honour "the men and women who have and continue to bravely serve this country," but "with the exception of those items required by law, our dress code policy prohibits any additions to our standard uniform."