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Target changes its tune: Veterans can now sell poppies inside its stores

Exterior photos of the Target Canada in Guelph Ontario

Tim Fraser/The Globe and Mail

Target has since issued a statement in which the company says it welcomes veterans to distribute poppies inside its Canadian stores.

"Canada's veterans and other Royal Canadian Legion members are most welcome to offer Poppies to customers outside the front of our stores or inside if they prefer," said Derek Jenkins, senior vice-president of external relations.

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Welcome to Canada, Target. We've opened our borders to you and graciously allowed an American retail chain to open stores in our cities from coast to coast.

So why are you forcing our veterans to stand in the cold outside those stores to sell poppies?

More than a few people are steamed by Target's recent decree, as reported by CTV Atlantic, that Canadian military veterans could sell poppies outside their stores, but can only venture inside the double doors if it's particularly nasty outside.

Poppy-selling season, incidentally, commences late September and runs until Remembrance Day on Nov. 11. The Canadian weather tends to get rather nippy this time of the year and many of our veterans are in their 70s or older. Just saying.

The seemingly heartless decision was decided in a meeting between Target and Dominion Command, the governing body of the Royal Canadian Legion, which also oversees the annual poppy campaign.

Following the meeting, Target spokesperson Lisa Gibson delivered what the company likely felt was a magnanimous decision:

"We agreed that outside the front doors would be ideal and obviously if the weather is inclement or they prefer they are welcome to stand inside the double doors as well," said Gibson.

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Launched here last year under the slogan "expect more, pay less," Target has established more than 40 store locations in Canadian cities. The retail chain's decision regarding veterans was confirmed by Dominion Command in an e-mail received by CTV, but still rankled DC volunteer Bobby Bouchie.

"The poppy represents our veterans," bristled Bouchie, a veteran himself. "To say that we were not allowed to sell inside their stores is trying to say that we're not worthy."

Bouchie also said that the cold weather won't prevent him from selling poppies.

The contentious issue has also come to the attention of NDP Veterans Affairs critic Peter Stoffer, who suggested Target officials may be unfamiliar with Canadian weather patterns.

"It doesn't matter where you are in Canada, it's cold," said Stoffer, who represents the riding of Sackville-Eastern Shore in Nova Scotia. "And the reality is it's a bonus to Target to let these veterans into their stores, set up their tables and sell the poppies as they've always done."

Stoffer even went the extra mile by calling the retail chain's head offices. A spokesperson informed him that Domininion Command and Target were going to have another meeting on the matter.

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Meanwhile, it's unlikely the bad publicity created by Target's attitude toward our veterans is encouraging many Canadians to spend money at their stores.

"It's not right. Veterans warrant respect and admiration and I really can't grasp the reasoning why they would keep them out," said Halifax shopper Teresa Moore.

"I think it's disrespectful, myself," said fellow shopper Linda Hilchie. "My dad's a veteran and I know there's a lot of them that are in their 80s that sit at those tables and it's just not a good place for them to be. They need to be inside."

Here in Canada, we also expect more, Target.

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