- Feb 8, 2007
- Land of Swine and Maple Syrup
It's about time and bringing back a piece of history that made our military what it is today.
Returning to our royal roots
MacKay rebrands navy, air force with historic pre-’68 monikers
By PAT LEE Staff Reporter
The Canadian navy and air force are once again sporting the royal moniker, much to the delight of veterans and others who for decades decried the actions of politicians of a bygone era.
Defence Minister Peter MacKay officially rebranded the Royal Canadian Navy and Royal Canadian Air Force at a naming ceremony Tuesday at the jetty at HMC Dockyard in Halifax.
The army will now be called the Canadian Army.
A return to the historic names means the torpedoing of Maritime Command, Air Command and Land Force Command, terms put in place in 1968 when the Trudeau government unified the forces and suited all its members in legendarily hated gun-green uniforms.
Flanked by a Second World War-era Corvette and a modern frigate, MacKay said the move rights a historic wrong.
"Our Conservative government believes that an important element of the Canadian military heritage was lost when these three former services were required to relinquish their historic titles," MacKay said.
"Restoring these historic identities is a way of reconnecting today’s men and women in uniform with the proud history and traditions that they carry with them as members of the Canadian Armed Forces."
He said the change is in name only; current military operations will remain intact.
MacKay said the primarily cosmetic change will be phased in over time as members get new uniforms or new stationery is ordered. The cost is expected to be minimal.
He said Canada was one of the few Commonwealth countries to do away with the royal name.
Some of the credit for the rebranding was given to Michael Smith of Toronto, a former member of the navy who started a blog and website devoted to lobbying Ottawa over the issue, eventually collecting more than 6,200 names in support.
In Halifax for the ceremony, Smith said it’s important the military remain in touch with its history.
"The Royal Canadian Navy, this is the navy that fought in the Battle of the Atlantic. If there had been no victory at sea, there would have been no victory in Europe.
"The Royal Canadian Air Force is the air force that fought in the Battle of Britain.
"Those historical titles are now reality, and those who are currently serving can be connected to that pride, to that history, that tradition. The distinctiveness has come back, and there’s a lot of meaning in those titles."
Chief Petty Officer 1st Class Dana McLellan, coxswain on HMCS Ville de Quebec, said it feels like the old and new families of the military have been reunited.
"We’re affiliated once again with all those sailors, soldiers and airmen who came before us, who gave up their lives," said McLellan, who was getting ready to head back out to sea following the ceremony.
"It joins the past with the present."
Gerald Sigrist of Bridgewater spent 32 years in the navy. He was thrilled to see the alteration but is still miffed at the changes made to the military in 1968.
"(Then-defence minister) Paul Hellyer made a lot of mistakes," said Sigrist, on hand for the ceremony as national executive secretary of the Royal Canadian Naval Association.
"He put us in a green suit that none of us wanted to wear and changed our rank titles. I suffered under that for a lot of years. It was certainly a mistake."
Sigrist said some younger members of the military may not immediately see the need for the name change. He encountered that attitude with his grandson, who’s in the navy.
"He said ‘What do they want to do that for?’ But when I explained it to him, he was all for it."
Tuesday’s ceremony included handing over historic flags to representatives from veterans groups from each branch of the forces.