Many Canadians wear poppies in early November to honour veterans who served their country. Poppies are available in donation boxes at many retail outlets and theft of these boxes are not unknown.
Poppies in Canada are made exclusively for and sold by the Royal Canadian Legion. The Legion's mission is to assist veterans and to maintain memorials so that the sacrifices made by those who served will never be forgotten. Funding for the organization comes mainly from the Legion's annual Poppy Campaign.
While some poppies are sold by members of the Royal Canadian Legion who sell them in public areas, poppy donation boxes are found in beer and liquor stores and on the counters of many fast food restaurants and other retail outlets. People put a donation in the box and take a poppy. Many places where these donation boxes are found are extremely busy and employees cannot keep an eye on them. It is not difficult for someone without any scruples to lift the box off the counter and leave the store with it. Sadly, this happens every year.
Nicholas Moorhouse, 34, was arrested by Toronto police last night. It is alleged he stole three poppy donation boxes from three Tim Hortons restaurants. When he was arrested, he was found in possession of one of the boxes that contained about $50. Moorhouse was captured after police viewed surveillance video from one of the stores.
In a twist of irony, or perhaps it's karma, CTV News reports both police officers who arrested Moorhouse are veterans and both had served in Afghanistan.
Moorhouse is charged with three counts of theft under $5,000.
On the same day Moorhouse was arrested, Christopher Ethier, 31, made his first appearance in a west Toronto courtroom. The Toronto Sun reports Ethier faces nine charges; three counts each of theft under $5,000, possession of property obtained by crime, and fail to comply with probation. It is alleged Ethier stole three poppy donation boxes earlier in the week from a Beer Store, a Tim Hortons restaurant, and a Subway sandwich shop.
When Ethier was arrested he was found in possession of $282 that police allege came from the thefts. The 31-year-old was remanded in custody and will appear in court again on Tuesday.
The Toronto Star reports the public has been very helpful in aiding police in identifying the culprits. In Ethier's case, police made still photographs from one of the surveillance tapes and distributed them in the three businesses where the thefts occurred. Det. Tim Jacob is quoted as saying, "The amount of calls that we received was incredible. It just tugs on everyone's heart."
Jacob also said that over 100 calls alone were made to 13 Division that polices the area where the thefts occurred.
Although these two incidents occurred in Toronto, other thefts of poppy donation boxes have been reported throughout Canada.