Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Unfortunate Testimony of Admiral Summers

Note to Petitioners: Rear-Admiral Summers has changed his tune. He signed the petition, but is now not in favour of restyling the navy as the Royal Canadian Navy. That is hugely unfortunate, of course, but it is interesting that all recently retired admirals are singing from the same song sheet. Here is our third and final instalment of unfortunate testimonies by retired admirals - whom are of a completely different class - by the way - from the generation that came before them. Fret not, there are many veteran admirals (those over 75) who support our initiative.


OTTAWA, Monday, November 15, 2010

The Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence met this day at 4 p.m. to consider a motion to change the official structural name of the Canadian Navy.

Senator Roméo Antonius Dallaire (Deputy Chair) in the chair.


The Deputy Chair: Good afternoon, honourable senators, ladies and gentlemen, the staff, witnesses and guests. Welcome to this session of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence that is reviewing a motion proposed by Senator Bill Rompkey in the Senate, seconded by Senator Fraser, with regard to the name of the Canadian navy. I will read the motion so that we are all aware of what it says with respect to the aim of our exercise this afternoon:

That the Senate of Canada encourage the Minister of National Defence, in view of the long service, sacrifice and courage of Canadian Naval forces and personnel, to change the official structural name of the Canadian navy from "Maritime Command" to "Canadian Navy" effective from this year, as part of the celebration of the Canadian Navy Centennial, with that title being used in all official and operational materials, in both official languages, as soon as possible.

"Encourage" is a significant verb in this exercise.

That is the motion. It is not an insignificant gesture when we consider the impact of terminology, tradition and the ethos of the members of the forces in general and, in this particular case, the navy.

Today, we have a naval flavour to the exercise. I have to warn you that I am wondering whether I am qualified to be chair as two of my children are in the naval reserve. However, I have a son in the infantry, so I think that will balance it out.


The Deputy Chair: Ladies and gentlemen, our last witness today is retired Rear-Admiral Ken Summers, currently the Vice-President of the Naval Officers Association of Canada. Rear-Admiral Summers commanded our troops in the first Gulf War in 1990 and was also Chief of Staff of the Supreme Allied Commander (Atlantic). He held that position until his much-too-early retirement in 2000.

He is a CBC military analyst; we see him often. He is also Co-chair of the successful Naval Centennial "Homecoming Statue" project, which was a great success.

Admiral, do you have opening comments?

Rear-Admiral (Retired) Ken Summers, Vice-President (Former Commander Canadian Fleet Atlantic), Naval Officers Association of Canada: Yes, I do.

Good evening, chair and members of the standing committee. It is a privilege and a pleasure to appear before this committee. I have always believed this committee has been one of the most productive, relevant and non-partisan committees in Parliament — one which is not afraid to tackle tough issues. By its history, it is also not afraid to mince words when the final report is made. That is all the more important to me because your domain is security and defence, which is the fundamental responsibility of government to its citizens.

You have heard what I have done.

With respect to the motion being considered, my father was a chief petty officer in the Royal Canadian Navy. He served during World War II aboard those famous corvettes during the Battle of the Atlantic, from Halifax to St. John's to Londonderry and up into Murmansk in all the ice. He died in 1975 and there was a White Ensign on his coffin. If he were here today, he would oppose Senator Rompkey's motion in favour of a return to "Royal Canadian Navy."

My son is a lieutenant-commander in today's navy. He has proudly served at sea and is now doing his penance at NDHQ. If he were asked, he would be somewhat puzzled and perplexed at my father's response and would wholeheartedly embrace the proposed motion and the name "Canadian Navy," for to him, that represents reality today, both at sea and ashore, nationally and in the eyes of other nations.

I am of the generation of sailors from that transition period between the navy of yesteryear and the navy of today. I joined the RCN in 1963 and proudly wore my midshipman badges. Later, with the Queen's commission, my naval uniform was complete with the executive curl. Shortly thereafter, with integration, I reluctantly put on the greens of the Canadian Forces and the anchor badges of something called Maritime Command. I endured integration and the common rank structure and administration.

Throughout my 37 years of service, I was fortunate to spend much of that time in command: ship, squadron, the Canadian fleet, and as commander of the Canadians during the 1990 Gulf War. I was also at headquarters: Maritime Command Headquarters, National Defence Headquarters, the Canadian embassy in Washington, and NATO headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia. Since retirement, I have remained current on defence and naval matters. As the chair mentioned, I appear on CBC quite often.

All of that is to say that I believe I have a good feel for how the navy has evolved or morphed from the RCN to today's navy. More important, I believe I know how the navy perceives itself as well as how others — our neighbour to the south, NATO allies and the RIMPAC nations — view our sailors and our navy.

This year we celebrate the one-hundredth anniversary of the creation of the Naval Service of Canada, for that is what it was officially called back in 1910 under the incorporating act respecting the Naval Service of Canada. It was a year later that the King agreed to change it to the Royal Canadian Navy.

This year, the themes of the naval centennial are: Honour the past, celebrate the present and commit to the future. How very appropriate.

Canada's navy does honour its past. The Royal Navy provided the very foundation on which the Canadian navy was created, and it grew to be the fourth largest and arguably the third most efficient navy at the end of the Second World War. Much of this credit must go to the Royal Navy, which was directly or indirectly responsible for so much of our training and expertise prior to the 1960s. This proud historical linkage has been honoured in virtually all naval events held this past year across the country.

Since the mid-1960s, the Canadian navy has evolved and become truly independent of our "mother service," if you would. The Canadian navy evolved from a North Atlantic-centric, anti-submarine-focused navy to a smaller, professional and more versatile navy able to respond globally to crises, aggression, terrorism, piracy and humanitarian disasters, all the while protecting the maritime approaches to Canada and the vital commerce that is key to the country's future.

Of equal importance, senators, our sailors have evolved, too. No one in uniform today served in the Royal Canadian Navy. With the return of the naval uniform in the 1980s, our sailors truly thought of themselves as members of the Canadian navy, not Maritime Command. This was increasingly reflected unconsciously, as I recall, in writings referencing our Canadian navy. The only real question we had was whether the "N" in "navy" was a capital or not.

The motion put forward by Senator Bill Rompkey recognizes the evolution of our service and our sailors, and puts the emphasis not on the past but on the present and the future, and it represents reality.

This reality is further borne out when one considers how our allies view us. The United States Navy, our NATO allies and the RIMPAC nations have never thought of our navy as Maritime Command or elements of the Canadian Forces. We were seen as and referred to simply as "the Canadian navy." Indeed, in NATO headquarters and elsewhere one would more often than not see "CN" after the name of an officer or sailor.

As the centennial approached, there was a discussion within many branches of the Navy Officers Association of Canada about putting forward a resolution calling for a return to "Royal Canadian Navy" during the centennial year. While those who served in the RCN were sympathetic to this nostalgic view, it did not resonate at all with those who joined after integration or those in uniform today.

After much reflection and discussion, and in recognition of the one-hundredth anniversary of the credo of "honour the past, celebrate the present and commit to the future," the NOAC was strongly of the view that such a proposal would be a step backwards rather than looking to the future. I understand that other large organizations such as the Royal Canadian Legion had come to the same conclusion.

In this naval year, we have honoured the past with the return of the naval executive curl to our uniform, and we continue to cherish the royal linkage we have through HMCS, Her Majesty's Canadian Ship. We have celebrated our present navy's accomplishments and service to Canada in recent conflicts, humanitarian disaster missions and operations such as anti-piracy. It is therefore most appropriate to commit to the future by passing Senator Rompkey's motion that represents reality today with a formal structural name change to "Canadian Navy" with a capital "N."

Thank you for your attention, senators. I would be pleased to answer any questions you might have on this issue or any naval issues you may wish to pursue.

Senator Segal: I believe that Rear-Admiral Summers is the Canadian who commanded the largest fleet of multinational ships ever after World War II in the logistics fleet for which he was responsible in the first Gulf War; is that correct?

Rear-Admiral Summers: During the first Gulf War, Dusty Miller was the actual commander while I was the overall commander. That was the only major role given to a non-American during the Gulf War — the responsibility for logistics supply for all the ships operating and fighting in the Gulf — and it was a major task.

Senator Segal: How many ships would have been under Canadian command at that point?

Rear-Admiral Summers: We only had three ships of our own there, but in total there were 50 or 60.

Senator Segal: A substantially larger number than we had in our own navy at that time?

Rear-Admiral Summers: Oh, yes.

Senator Segal: Can you share with us, to the extent that you feel comfortable doing so, the dynamics of the discussion that took place at the Naval Officers Association of Canada? It strikes me that as we talk about people who have a strong belief in tradition and also a strong commitment to the present and future navy, very few focus groups would be more representative of those two sides than the Naval Officers Association, yet they came to the conclusion that they did. To the extent that you can give us the tonality or feel of that discussion, it would be helpful to committee members to hear your comments in that regard.

Rear-Admiral Summers: The debate was held in a number of branches, and it was very emotional. Many of our members are aging. In fact, I am one of the younger ones. Many of them identify with the Royal Canadian Navy. That was a cherished time in their lives, and they feel strongly about it. They felt that we should consider passing a resolution for this type of name change. However, from 1966 on, many were not in the Royal Canadian Navy, and although the heritage and history is there, they felt strongly that they were not of the RCN.

Anyone in uniform today, including my son — and I get it in spades — does not identify with the RCN. They are not really sure what that is.

The organization honours the past. So many of our members are members of the past. However, the navy recognizes the sea change that has taken place in terms of our capability and how we have changed from something that was North Atlantic-centric to something global for the future. We realized that the wise and prudent thing was to not look backwards as an organization but rather to look forward, and that is the direction we took.

Senator Segal: I realize you have been out of the chain of command for a while, but could you give us your own assessment of our relative status in terms of interoperability? For example, I was led to believe that when our ships sail as part of a U.S. task force or a NATO task force, our commanding officers have the same clearance as their American colleagues in terms of access to strategic data that is necessary for the execution of the mission. I was told that that level of interoperability is in fact greater between us and the Americans than between us and the Royal Navy despite our many cooperative ventures and training with them, specifically in the submarine area.

Rear-Admiral Summers: I could give you some examples. When we were going to the Gulf War, I had the option of sidling up with the Royal Navy. In fact, they approached me about getting together to form a Commonwealth squadron. One reason I was opposed to that was their interoperability capabilities. They were using HF types of communications as opposed to the satellite and instant communications that we had. Recognizing the threat there might be in the gulf, we needed information right away rather than relying upon HF, which may or may not come through.

Interoperability has always been a major concern of the Canadian navy. Some of your previous witnesses would know how much stock we have put into maintaining that interoperability with the United States Navy. During and subsequent to the Gulf War, we were probably the only nation that had complete interoperability with the United States Navy. That is why, in a number of the operations from 1990 onward in the gulf and elsewhere, they have turned to the Canadians to be commanders. We are the ones who are interoperable with the Americans and can command the other forces. We have developed a legacy in that regard, which is very important. It is all due to our capability to be interoperable with everyone.

Senator Lang: Following up on Senator Segal's questions, how large is the Naval Officers Association of Canada? What is your membership?

Rear-Admiral Summers: We have about 1,800 regular members and a number of associates who are not naval officers but are value-added to the organization.

Senator Lang: To follow up on the question about coming to the conclusion that the organization did, was that decision taken strictly by your executive organization, or did you poll your membership?

Rear-Admiral Summers: The motions came from a number of organizations and were debated in the branches. Our executive is drawn from members across the country. We discussed the matter at some length and came to that conclusion.

Senator Lang: After your debates, would you describe the decision as a consensus?

Rear-Admiral Summers: Absolutely; it was a consensus across the board. Even those who took the nostalgic view and favoured the RCN realized that the organization had to be looking forward and not back.

Senator Lang: You said that you understand that other large service organizations such as the Royal Canadian Legion have come to the same conclusion. Could you expand on that as well?

Rear-Admiral Summers: I had heard that the Royal Canadian Legion had come to that conclusion, so I asked about that. I gather they have testified that they looked at their membership and came to the same conclusion to look forward and not back. That surprised me. I thought the Royal Canadian Legion would be more willing to go back to "Royal Canadian Navy" as opposed to "Canadian Navy." In fact, my understanding is that the Royal Canadian Legion has agreed that "Canadian Navy" is the way to go.

The Deputy Chair: The Naval Officers Association of Canada exists, but is there something in the navy for the other ranks? Have the other ranks been polled in some way similar to the officers?

Rear-Admiral Summers: There are a number of naval organizations, but members of the Naval Officers Association of Canada tend to be just the officers. There are active chief and petty officers’ associations on both coasts. They are service oriented as opposed to being involved in advocacy and defence issues. Other organizations, such as the Royal Canadian Naval Association, the Navy League of Canada, and Maritime Affairs, get involved in some issues. A number of independent naval organizations are seized with defence issues, depending on the organization.

The Deputy Chair: Did they pronounce themselves in this regard during this year's festivities?

Rear-Admiral Summers: To my knowledge, no. I do not know. Certainly on both coasts the chief and petty officers' associations were active in the centennial year, but they are more service oriented to their membership and look after the welfare of those in their group.

Senator Patterson: Admiral, I was intrigued with your observation that for those of us who feel it is important to cherish the royal linkage, as you put it well, it is more than nostalgia. I think it is a reverence to history. Your point is that this royal linkage or a reflection of our history can continue to be reflected through the way we describe Her Majesty's Canadian Ships.

If we adopt the term "Canadian Navy" and not the term "Royal Canadian Navy," do you think it is conceivable that this could lead us to finding another way to name our ships?

Rear-Admiral Summers: I would hope it would not. Even those who joined after the RCN hold dear to HMCS. I cannot see it changing to CNS or something like that.

Look at what has happened this past year. I go back to the credo to "honour the past, celebrate the present and commit to the future." Having elements such as honouring our past is important, and HMCS is one of those elements.

The Deputy Chair: As Vice-Admiral Buck explained, they are getting down to the unit level. They have their own establishments and rules. Trying to change the name of a unit is quite a significant exercise, even if it is not a Canadian navy ship. That is a whole different world of complexity than the command level of changing a name. It could be explained, but only to raise the significance that these are names of fighting units. That is like changing "Black Watch" to something else, which does happen, but that would be quite a regressive action.

Forgive me; as chair, I speak on this only to inform.

Senator Mitchell: Admiral, I want to get more detail. Maybe I missed it. You said the Royal Canadian Legion supports the idea of "Canadian Navy." Was an official motion passed at a convention, or was it an executive decision?

Rear-Admiral Summers: I think they had an AGM. I am on shaky ground here. This whole question was discussed, and they decided at the time that they would not support renaming the navy to "Royal Canadian Navy."

Senator Mitchell: I intend to be less provocative with this question than some of my colleagues across the way will think I am, but we had four witnesses today who categorically did support and are supporting the "Canadian Navy" idea. I am racking my brain to figure out where the idea of "Royal Canadian Navy" comes from, if not only from this kind of nostalgic view of a romantic era that was nowhere as near romantic as we think it to be today. Is there some other basis or argument for that?

Rear-Admiral Summers: Are you talking about the recent desire to return to "Royal Canadian Navy"?

Senator Mitchell: Yes, all of a sudden, out of the blue.

Rear-Admiral Summers: I think the centennial brought it back. From 1910 on, we were called the Naval Service of Canada. Rather than go to "Royal Canadian Navy," I would rather see us called the Naval Service of Canada. Looking back over the last 100 years has caused us to revisit this whole question. I think this was seen as coming up along with the executive curl. It has not been a hot button issue for the last decade. There has been no continuous push for "Royal Canadian Navy," other than the nostalgic view of a number of our members.

Senator Plett: Senator Mitchell referred a number of times to the fact that this is an issue of nostalgia. Now he says that it is about romance. I am nostalgic; my wife at times has called me a hopeless romantic.

We have heard four witnesses here today, and all of them have done a great job of presenting their views. I do not think the entire committee and the four witnesses are far away from agreement. I am not sure whether it was Rear-Admiral Mifflin or Vice-Admiral Buck who said that there might be some strong issues in certain parts of the country. I want to be careful that I do not put words in either of their mouths.

Overall, I have felt the sentiment that most of the folks in our present navy — your son and others, for example — are not real big on supporting "Royal Canadian Navy," but I have not felt that much negativity toward the suggestion. It is more that they are the new breed, the new people, and certainly this nostalgia is not there. They say, "Why do we need ‘Royal Canadian Navy’?" I am wondering whether they would actually put up a strong defence to that option.

I will jump around a bit before you answer. You said that the Royal Canadian Legion held an AGM. You did not want to be quoted on it, but you thought they might have said that they would not support this motion. Is that the same as opposing? Were they just saying that they are not necessarily supportive of it, or would they actually oppose it?

Lastly, does the Royal Canadian Legion have any intention of changing their name to the "Canadian Legion," or are they big on keeping "Royal Canadian Legion"? I think there would be strong opposition from most of the legion’s membership if we dared to go that route.

Rear-Admiral Summers: First, I am encouraged that all of the four witnesses have been saying the same line. I come from the West Coast and do not get a chance to collude on this issue. My personal view comes out of the association after talking with folks there.

As to whether the present people would oppose it, I suppose they would not. I can tell you that they would not like it. In many ways, it would be the same as going back to "Maritime Command." It is not what they think they are. They are the Canadian navy.

I mentioned this unofficially in writings. I can recall writing stuff down and not know whether to capitalize that "N" or not. In the writings, it eventually got to the point where I would make it a small "n," but I was really thinking a big "N." That went on for 20 years because the term "Maritime Command" did not mean anything.

Dare I say — and perhaps the chair can speak to this as well — when they went through integration, sailors could identify with a ship, their ship. They could identify with the squadron, perhaps. They could identify with the coast. However, to identify with something called "Canadian Forces" was a bridge too far, so it never caught on. You became an element of the Canadian Forces or Maritime Command. It was lumped into that thing up there. It never took hold with our sailors. When you got back into the blue uniform, as I mentioned, you felt you were the Canadian navy. When you were away, that is how you were regarded.

At my headquarters in Norfolk, Canadians were "so-and-so (CN)" because that is the way they saw us. I mentioned it a couple of times, but that was the reality.

This motion by Senator Rompkey reflects reality. It would be extremely well accepted by the navy of today and, in fact, the navy of the last 40 years.

Senator Plett: One of the witnesses suggested that if we were to poll the veterans, of which you are one, as are the other witnesses today, we would get more veterans wanting "Royal Canadian Navy" than just members of the Royal Canadian Legion. If we were to poll personnel in the navy now, we would get the opposite. Would you agree?

Rear-Admiral Summers: If you wait another 10 years and then do that type of poll, you will find that the number of people voting for "Royal Canadian Navy" will be less than today. That is the reality of the "Royal Canadian Navy" option. The people who served in the RCN are getting on. I do not think people in uniform today would willingly accept to go back to "Royal Canadian Navy," pure and simple.

Senator Plett: You referred to our allies. We are all in agreement that "Maritime Command" is not acceptable and that we need the word "navy." Admiral Buck said that if you ask anyone in the navy now where they are serving, they say "in the navy." I think we are agreed in that respect.

However, you suggested that many of our allies do not know why we would call ourselves what we do. I do not think you necessarily said it, but you inferred that they would not understand why we would want to go to "Royal Canadian Navy." I point out that the British call their navy the Royal Navy, and there is the Royal Australian Navy, the Royal New Zealand Navy, the Royal Netherlands Navy, the Royal Danish Navy, the Royal Norwegian Navy, and at least 11 others. Not all countries are opposed to the designation "Royal," and I would certainly consider some of them to be our NATO allies.

Rear-Admiral Summers: Your point is well taken. I acknowledge that, and it is true, but I guess we have not had anything like that. Maritime Command was out there, and it was not understood, so they said "Canadian Navy." That is what we are known as.

Senator Peterson: You have been clear that the current members of the force would prefer "Canadian Navy." Maybe some of the veterans would like "Royal Canadian Navy." Where does the military hierarchy stand on this matter?

Rear-Admiral Summers: I do not know. If you had them speak to you, you could certainly ask them. Quite honestly, I think they are seized with other issues, such as shipbuilding, as opposed to executive curl, name changes and so forth, with all due respect to the motion. I am not sure exactly where they stand, but I think they would probably be supportive of "Canadian Navy."

There is another element of this debate that has not come out yet, namely, the young people of today. One of the problems that the navy faces is recruiting and bringing people on board, particularly people that, perhaps, come from out west, from Asian nations and so forth. They would identify with something that is nationally named "Canadian Navy," whereas if it were named "Royal Canadian Navy," it might not have the right connotation that they might perceive given where they came from. As well, one of our provinces might have an adverse reaction if it was named the "Royal Canadian Navy," for perhaps the wrong reasons.

From the point of view of perception and attracting people into the navy, looking to the future, I would suggest something that is nationally named would be far more attractive than something that was named decades ago.

Senator Peterson: I was on a frigate this summer as part of the "parliamentarian forces." I think the captain was 38, and the age dropped from there. I was a senior citizen. They have a lot of pride and they are gung ho. I was totally impressed. I can see why they would like to have their own identity.

Rear-Admiral Summers: It is interesting talking about the people. I was up here not that long ago talking with a number of MPs and senators, as well as with Vice-Admiral Buck. People who had the luxury of going to sea on the ships said, "If you want to solve a problem with the navy, just get those young sailors out telling people about Haiti and anti-piracy. Your people are the best advertisement for what the navy is all about." If you look at the people, they are the Canadian navy. They are not the "Royal Canadian Navy"; they are the "Canadian Navy." That is the way we should be going.

The Deputy Chair: I do not know whether the Canadian navy's engineers are still being trained in the U.K. or whether they have gone "North American," as have the army and air force. Has that been resolved, or is that still in happening?

Rear-Admiral Summers: Until the 1960s, almost all training for our engineers and operators was done over in the U.K. Some of it was in the United States, but the vast majority was done in the U.K. In fact, Canadians used to go over from Morrisburg. One of my first officers at Royal Military College spoke with a British accent. I found out that he came from Morrisburg, but when we went over there, he adopted the wardroom accent. When he came back, he was more British than the British. That type of training went on for the longest time.

We have basically been weaned off of that, but our people still attend specific courses over there, such as submarine training. We also do training down in the U.S., very specific courses on satellites, for example. That reliance on the engineering world many years ago is not the case anymore, but whenever the best training is required, that is where we send our people.

The Deputy Chair: That is not a policy anymore; excellent.

The Royal Canadian Legion does not have a reason to change its name. We are looking at changing "Maritime Command" to "Canadian Navy," so that is an impetus to look at all the angles of the issue. They will also change the flag of the command.

I noticed that the army and the air force do not have the Crown any more, but the navy still has it on its anchor. Was that something that just stayed? Do you know if there is there a reason for that?

Rear-Admiral Summers: No. It was part of the tradition, I guess.

The Deputy Chair: It was the old ensign, and they kept it that way. I was involved in changing the army one in 1995, and the Crown was taken away at that time.

Even though they are busy, would you recommend that this committee ask the commander of the navy and his chief warrant officer to give us their comments as serving officers and NCOs?

Rear-Admiral Summers: It would be worthwhile. As sailors, they have their finger on the pulse better than I do. The head of the navy would be good and the commander in chief would be great. You might want to try to bring in a commanding officer. That is someone who is down with the fleet at sea right now.

I will go back to a quick point about the Royal Canadian Legion. If you look at the membership of the legion now, you will find that for a number of people to be in the legion, they do not need to have served. All sorts of people are members of the legion now who have never worn a uniform. That is one difference between a number of the organizations.

The Deputy Chair: It was a pleasure to see you again. Thank you very much for your instructive information, comments and responses.

(The committee adjourned.)


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The Petition moves along...

May 1: Laurie Hawn, M.P. agrees to support petition
April 30: Sent draft petition to The Dominion Institute to seek their sponsorship
April 28: Sent draft petition to Captain(N) Pickingford, Project Manager, Canadian Navy Centennial Project
April 27: Sent petition to Blaine Barker of the Royal Canadian Naval Association and Bob Nixon of the Naval Officer's Association of Canada and Peter Dawe, Executive Director of the RMC Club
April 26: The Monarchist League of Canada members are supportive
April 25: Interesting - even heated - debate over at the Navy, Army, Air Force Forum, where the "Yeas" have it by a two-thirds majority.