The most prominent symbol of respect for Canadian veterans is going digital.

The Royal Canadian Legion is making ‘digital poppies’ available to Canadians starting Friday.

The poppies can be dedicated, shared via social media and personalized with stories and images.

“If you’ve got your digital poppy … people are seeing that as much as they are somebody wearing it,” Legion deputy director Danny Martin said in a phone interview.

It is the first time online donations have ever been accepted by the Legion’s national poppy fund, which helps pay for services for veterans and their families.

Funds raised will be directed to local Legion branches based on addresses entered when the donations are made.

Martin says the digital poppies were conceived as a way to reach younger Canadians on the platforms they use most.

“If you want to promote remembrance and continue with the poppy fund, you have to modernize and go to the format that people are using,” he said.

“Go stand in a group of people in a dental office or a bus stop and what is everybody doing? They’re staring at their phones.”

Despite having more than 1,400 branches across the country, it is difficult for the Legion to reach every Canadian every year, Martin said – particularly in big cities, and particularly when people are less likely than ever to be carrying cash they might be willing to donate.

The digital poppy campaign is backed by prominent Canadians including Margaret Atwood, Justin Bieber and Joannie Rochette.

Atwood said in a news release that she plans to dedicate her poppy to her father-in-law, Brig.-Gen. T.G. Gibson, who fought in the Second World War.

“The main street of Deventer in Holland is named after him, as he and his troops were able to liberate it without destroying it,” she said.

But could a national embrace of the digital poppy be the beginning of the end for the traditional public display of poppies? Martin doesn’t think so.

“We’re not concerned with that at all. Not at all,” he said.

“This is more trying to reach out to an audience that we’re not reaching at the moment.”

The first-ever digital poppy was presented to Gov.-Gen. Julie Payette Tuesday in a special ceremony at the Beechwood National Cemetery of Canada.