From hopelessness to hope: Cornwall’s poppy defacement after the tragic loss of reservist Nathan Cirillo By Mary Anne Pankhurst

From hopelessness to hope: Cornwall’s poppy defacement after the tragic loss of reservist Nathan Cirillo  By Mary Anne Pankhurst

dockery poppy joking MOD

Hope doesn’t always spring eternal.

This was especially true (for me) in late summer, after the 100th anniversary of WW1 slipped back into the past, and August was on the wane.

By that time, it was fully two months after the defacement of the poppy (by a gang that grew to well over 550 Cornwall-N-Area adult cyberabusers) and the slow march to Remembrance Day had begun. It remains difficult to understand why the defacement has been ignored, particularly given the significance of living in Eastern Ontario along the mighty St. Lawrence.

The geography alone forms a unique and militaristically significant triangle.

From my own southward-facing porch in South Glengarry, flowed the sparkling seaway, which was opened by Queen Elizabeth – Commander-in-Chief of Canada’s military – in 1959, a territory fiercely defended by Loyalists and First Nations during the War of 1812.

The view north stretched up to the horizon ending at the Highway of Heroes, the very route named for Canadian Forces personnel who have fallen.

And finally the westward view, to Cornwall, and the historic regiment situated there (known as the Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders) whose Colonel-in-Chief is Queen Elizabeth herself.

Ranking just below the Queen is Honourary Lieutenant Colonel, Jim Brownell, who is not only a member of the group that defaced the poppy but who (1) Represents himself within the group in his military uniform, (2) Defends the group’s leader, (3) Belligerently refuses to distance himself from the group (4) Let the story STORY LINK about the defacement languish on his public Facebook page until the group suddenly went underground on or around August 25th.

It makes one wonder “why” and whether the involvement breaks the Queen’s Commands which deal, in part, with rules governing the military’s image.

In addition, there’s a thread that remains on Brownell’s timeline (August 20), in which a friend is complaining about ER wait times at the hospital, and Brownell heartily recommends to over 90 friends on the thread:

“…send a letter to the Ethics Department of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, with a copy to the CEO of the Cornwall Community Hospital. What your daughter and wife witnessed is not right, and should be investigated. Without speaking up, things will not change. Personally, these kinds of things should never happen in the first place.

Those words resonate with me: …Should be investigated…Without speaking up, things will not change…These kinds of things should never happen in the first place.


So after communicating to the highest levels of government, as well as several leading to the top, the only response (over the poppy’s defacement) is silence.

Meanwhile, gang members make jokes and deny the defacement. My particular, feeble “favourite” is Thomas Roberts’: “No poppy was defaced, although a digital image of one was modified); and at least one comment from one of the group’s most prolific and excrement-obsessed posters (Bob Noble) is that it is I who should “Get a life.”

Fighting off cynicism has been difficult. One begins to wonder if the poppy has become a relic, or worse, meaningless lip service for the politically minded.

Mostly, I push those ideas away.

Still, how does one reckon “silence” from the Premier of Ontario; the Minister of Veteran’s Affairs; the Prime Minister; the Governor General and perhaps most of all the Royal Canadian Legion that has trademark and copyright protection but does nothing?

Then suddenly comes October 22nd. A terrible moment, a day of infamy.

Shots ring out in the golden morning light. A young reservist falls, his blood spilling soundlessly as he lies beneath the towering bronze and winged figures of the National War Memorial on Parliament Hill.

We are now in mourning.

I have hope that the poppy will be understood and cherished – if not by leaders who have failed to hear my alarm – by everyday Canadians whose hearts, minds and emotions are with Nathan Cirillo.

May he rest in peace.

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