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Calgary Cadet given OK to wear beaded poppy after initial concerns

The poppies, made traditional beading style, are widely viewed as a tribute to the thousands of Indigenous veterans who have served in the Canadian Armed Forces.

Jakob Kimber, a Navy Cadet with the RCSCC Undaunted, wears a beaded poppy his mother, Monique Fry, made for him.

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Jakob Kimber, a Navy Cadet with the RCSCC Undaunted, wears a beaded poppy his mother, Monique Fry, made for him.

A Calgary mother was relieved her son can now wear a beaded poppy she made him to honour the legacy of Indigenous veterans – including his great-grandfather – despite initial concerns it breached Navy Cadet uniform protocol.

When 14-year-old Jakob Kimber reported for poppy-selling duty (in support of the Royal Canadian Legion) with the 22 RSCSS Undaunted at North Hill Mall last week, he was told his Indigenous beaded-style poppy would have to be removed.

“The officer in charge informed him that it was a regulation concern with the uniform and it could only be the approved Royal Canadian Legion style,” said Monique Fry, Kimber’s mother and a First Nations traditional bead artist.

“I could tell he was a little bit disappointed and embarrassed.”

The 22 RCSCC Undaunted’s most-recent Corps Handbook says cadets "require the permission of the CO to wear any order of dress on any occasion other than an authorized cadet function. This includes events such as weddings, baptisms, funerals, and Remembrance Day services at the cadet’s school."

Fry said she was told by the officer if she could get permission from Kimber’s Commanding Officer (CO), the beaded poppy would be allowed – but the CO initially deferred the final call to higher-ups.

“He said he’s sent it up the chain of command, so to speak,” Fry told Metro. “It (went) up, I think, to the Department of National Defence because they're the ones that set the dress code for uniforms.”

Handmade poppies in a traditional beading style are widely viewed as a tribute to the thousands of Indigenous veterans who have served in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF).

They have been spotted on the lapels of many public officials in recent years – even the Government of Canada’s Indigenous twitter account posted a photo of one in honour of Aboriginal Veteran’s Day on Nov. 8.

The Chief of Defence Staff can authorize specific accessories for optional wear, as has been done for the Métis sash or a Sikh Kirpan, according to Winnipeg-Centre MP Robert-Falcon Ouellette, a 19-year veteran with the CAF from the Red Pheasant First Nation.

“I saw the National Defence Minister wearing an Indigenous poppy yesterday in the House of Commons – obviously he wasn’t in his uniform because he's no longer a serving member – but obviously for him it’s important to highlight Indigenous veterans, and create a society that’s welcoming to all people so everyone feels welcome to serve in the CAF,” said Ouellette, who is a Navy Reservist.

He said he wears his own beaded poppy, made by his wife, to Remembrance Day events while in uniform.

“It’s certainly an accepted part of the CAF,” Ouellette said.

Fry recieved a phone call late Thursday with good news: Kimber had recieved express consent from the CAF to wear the beaded poppy, and any related policy will be reviewed to prevent a similar situation in the future.

Fry said she understands the CO was trying to follow protocol, but hopes the flap will help start a conversation between Indigenous and non-indigenous Canadians.

“To his credit, (the CO) has been very supportive in terms of sitting down later to talk about how we infuse an Indigenous strategy within the Cadets,” Fry said. "He also apologized to Jakob for making him feel bad."

She said Kimber intends to wear the beaded poppy and his Cadet uniform to a Remembrance Day ceremony at his school on Friday and at a Royal Canadian Legion event on Saturday, where he will be raising the Canadian flag with his fellow Cadets.

“He likes to wear his uniform to the assemblies they do at school or any other important event … it’s something that instills that sense of pride he has as a Cadet,” Fry said.

The Department of National Defence and Royal Canadian Legion had not responded to requests for comment by press time.

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