Whole Foods has canned a controversial rule barring employees from wearing poppies in honor of Remembrance Day, Canada’s holiday for fallen soldiers, following a cascade of criticism.
The Amazon-owned supermarket chain reversed course just hours after CBC first reported on the ban Friday, saying employees pinning the traditional red flower to their work uniforms were being told they were in violation of the company’s recently updated uniform policy.
In response, employees took to social media, setting off a backlash. Whole Foods initially had stood firm, defending its “dress code,” which consists of an apron, a coat or vest, a hat and name badge, in a written statement, according to Global News.
But politicians started chiming in on Friday, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who called it a “silly mistake that I hope they will correct quickly.”
Doug Ford, the premiere of Ontario called for legislation “that prohibits any employer from banning their staff from wearing a poppy during Remembrance Week.”
“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,” a Whole Foods spokesperson told Yahoo News Canada.
“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,” the spokesperson added.
The red flowers are worn by Canadians during the week before Remembrance Day, whose traditions date back to World War I.
The controversy started after employee at a Whole Foods store in Ottowa told CBC that she was barred by her supervisor from wearing a poppy because that would be seen as “supporting a cause.”
“I was basically told … if they allowed this one particular cause, then it would open up the door so that they would have to allow or consider allowing other causes,” the employee told CBC.
“I was in shock actually. I was appalled. I couldn’t believe it.”
Other supermarket chains in Canada don’t restrict employees from wearing poppies, according to reports.