The dove is a symbol often associated with peace – not copyright infringement lawsuits.
But the White Peace Dove Campaign launched in Whitehorse this year, represents both.
The campaign resulted from a struggle in 2006 that pitted the Royal Canadian Legion against peace groups in Edmonton.
That November, the Earth’s General Store in Edmonton and the anti-war group Women in Black were barred from selling white poppies as an alternative to the blood-red poppy traditionally worn for Remembrance Day.
The Edmonton branch of the Royal Canadian Legion threatened both groups with a lawsuit. They sent cease-and-desist orders to Earth’s General Store and Women in Black for selling poppies, asserting they held exclusive copyright for the symbol.
The heavy-handed tactics used by the Legion struck a chord with Laird Herbert who, at the time, was a student at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario.
“It’s a bit of a stretch, how can you copyright the poppy? It’s like copyrighting the moose or the beaver,” said Herbert who now lives in Whitehorse and heads the national White Peace Dove Campaign.
In 2006, he was part of a campus anti-war group that wanted to create an alternative to the white poppy. A dove seemed like a natural symbol to use because of its international connotations of peace. And, more importantly, no one owned the copyright to that image.
The group worked with Earth’s General Store owner Michael Kalmanovitch and a friend of his to create the final design, which features a white flying dove made of plastic flocking, the same material used in the red poppy.
The group made a conscious effort to keep the design of the poppy in mind when creating the dove. You don’t need to look too closely at the dove to recognize that its back wings feature striations that mirror the lines of the red and white poppy.
The history of the white poppy stretches back to 1933, when the British Women’s Co-operative Guild created an image that not only commemorated those who had died in war, but that acted as a symbol for peace as well.
The white poppy was later adopted by the Peace Pledge Union in England, which distributed the poppies around the world.
Back in 2002, Kalmanovitch spotted a picture of the white poppy in a Briarpatch Magazine. Within hours, he had put together his own version of white peace poppies using white material and pins from red poppies to hold the printed word, “peace” in the centre of the flower, he said.
That was before he heard about the Peace Pledge Union in England, which sold the official white poppies that would eventually land Kalmanovitch in the middle of a media frenzy.
In 2003, he started selling the official peace poppies without any problems until the Legion caught on several years later.
In the end, the Legion placed more attention on the white poppy than he could ever hoped to, he said.
“We had three or four news outlets in our store at one time … they ended up promoting (the poppy),” said Kalmanovitch.
At first Kalmanovitch vowed to continue selling the white poppies regardless of the Legion’s criticism. That was before he realized the lengths the Legion was willing to go to prevent circulation of the white poppies.
“The Legion has incredibly deep pockets; their lawyers were ready for a long, protracted legal battle,” said Herbert.
So the store backed off. Today, the white poppy isn’t officially available anywhere in Canada. But there are still some white poppies that surface from time to time, he said.
Kalmanovitch is glad the white peace dove campaign has taken the place of the white poppy.
His store has already ordered several boxes from the Yukon, where they’re being sent to other parts of the country.
“I’m not a person who believes in war at all cost. We have to look at all options before going to war – peace should be the driving force,” Kalmanovitch said.
Sales of the peace dove have been going well, with only a couple thousand left from an initial batch of 11,000, said Herbert.
The white doves were meant to be unveiled on September 21, the International Day of Peace, but problems during the production process meant the doves couldn’t be released until mid-October.
This meant the campaign coincided that much more closely with the distribution of red poppies by the Royal Canadian Legion.
So far Herbert hasn’t heard any reactions from the Legion over the white peace dove campaign. In Edmonton, the Legion, which was so outspoken three years earlier, chose not to comment on the campaign in an article printed this week in the Edmonton Journal.
“It’s good, we don’t want that crazy conflict to happen again,” Herbert said.
“Last time around the Legion felt like (the two groups selling the poppies in Edmonton) were stepping on their turf … in some ways I expected them to do the same thing this time around.”
The Royal Canadian Legion in Whitehorse isn’t impressed by the peace doves, but won’t be making a public to-do over it, said president Red Grossinger.
He finds the campaign “completely insulting” because it runs concurrently with the red poppy campaign.
“I’m not against peace, but there’s a time and a place for it. And this time of the year is poppy time,” he said.
He also finds their objectives a bit “haywire.”
“They say the doves are for peace. This is what the red poppy is for – the peace we enjoy every day – but peace is not free.”
He points to the thousands of Canadian soldiers who have lost their lives for peace.
“It is soldiers that gave us this right, not peacemakers.”
“(The White Peace Dove Campaign) should talk to terrorists around the world who wish to take their freedom away to see what they have to say.”
But the doves are meant to complement the poppies, not stand in their place, said Herbert.
“The main reason behind the poppies is to protest the increasing militarization of Canada,” he said.
“Since Afghanistan, we see less peacekeeping and more combat … the nature of the military is not in tune with our Canadian identity.”
Already Herbert has seen people walking down the street with the dove on their lapel and he hopes to see more.
The peace doves are available for sale in Whitehorse at stores, such as Baked Cafe and the Bent Spoon Cafe as well as online at www.whitepeacedoves.org
The doves sell for a suggested donation of $1. All net proceeds go towards supporting anti-war groups in Canada.
Contact Vivian Belik at