American supermarket chain Whole Foods faced backlash earlier this morning after prohibiting Canadian employees from wearing poppies at work.
The move particularly caught Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s attention, who called it “absolutely disgusting and disgraceful.”
“Something really disturbing happened today, and it's regarding Whole Foods’ policy to ban employees from wearing poppies,” said Ford at his presser on Friday. “It's disrespectful when it comes to honouring our heroes, our veterans.”
Days before Remembrance Day when Canadians wear the poppy to honour those who gave their lives to battle in the war, an employee at Whole Foods in Ottawa confirmed to CBC that her supervisor said wearing a poppy would be seen as “supporting a cause”.
This was the first year where the employee was asked not to wear a poppy at work.
Whole Foods provided a statement to Yahoo News Canada below now changing their policy to allow employees to wear a poppy.
“Our new unified dress code policy is intended to create consistency and ensure operational safety across all of our stores. Our intention was never to single out the poppy or to suggest a lack of support for Remembrance Day and the heroes who have bravely served their country,” said Whole Foods Market spokesperson.
“We appreciate the thoughtful feedback we have received from our customers. Given the learnings of today, we are welcoming Team Members to wear the poppy pin in honour of Remembrance Day. As was previously planned, we will also be observing a moment of silence on November 11, as well as making a monetary donation to the Legion Poppy Fund.”
The uniform consists of a standard Whole Foods apron, coat, or vest depending on the department and team they are on, Whole Foods hat, and a name badge.
The dress code did not previously allow addition to the apparel, with some legal exception, added the spokesperson.
The Whole Foods spokesperson also confirmed that all team members must comply with the dress policy to ensure clear, easy to follow expectations while focusing on operational safety and customer service.
After learning the news, Ford announced he will introduce a new legislation to stop employers from banning employees wearing poppies.
“Whoever at Whole Foods made this decision isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer. But as sharp as a butter knife,” said Ford.
“I never, ever want to see any company in Ontario ever do this again. The poppy, is an endearing symbol of a sacrifice and appreciation for our veterans, and we will always, always respect and stand up for our heroes.”
— Doug Ford (@fordnation) November 6, 2020
Whole Foods says they are open to feedback from employees and respects the views of all team members.
Here is how Canadian politicians and leaders reacted to the news:
This is insane. I will arrange for free legal defence to any @WholeFoods employee in Canada who is harassed for wearing a poppy: Whole Foods grocery chain bans employees from wearing poppies https://t.co/vCYn4XLabP
— Walied Soliman (@waliedesq) November 6, 2020
It was wrong when they banned staff expressing support for Black Lives Matter and it’s wrong to ban the Poppy.
Canadians shouldn't lose the right to honour the sacrifices of veterans when they go to work.https://t.co/3hEfXgASwS
— Jagmeet Singh (@theJagmeetSingh) November 6, 2020
— Bob Rae (@BobRae48) November 6, 2020
— Mark Towhey (@towhey) November 6, 2020
I wear a poppy and believe it should be allowed in the workplace. But does it need an act of Parliament? Next you'll see a court decision prohibiting the government from prohibiting the employer from prohibiting poppies. At some point, just apply reasonable judgment. #onpoli https://t.co/kxoQxLTndG
— Jeff Rybak🍁😷 (@JeffRybak) November 6, 2020
This is shameful and wrong.
Workers at Whole Foods, and any other workplace in Canada, should have the right to choose to wear a poppy to show gratitude for the bravery and sacrifices of those who fought and gave their lives for our freedoms. #WeRemember https://t.co/1z5bc4rb0w
— Andrea Horwath (@AndreaHorwath) November 6, 2020