The good Senator Day writes a timely opinion article in the Toronto Star today:
If someone were to ask you to give the official name of our navy, chances are like most Canadians you would give an answer that ended in “Navy,” and understandably so.
This, however, is not the reality. With the adoption of the Canadian Forces Reorganization Act (1968) our navy became Maritime Command, amalgamating the Royal Canadian Navy, the Canadian Army and Royal Canadian Air Force into one unified service: The Canadian Forces.
This act restructured our military but regretfully discarded half a century of tradition in doing so. All three branches were dressed rifle-green; common army-style ranks replaced long-standing separate navy, army and air force identities.
This was detrimental to the navy’s esprit de corps. Eventually, though, dark blue replaced drab green. Captains returned to being captains, rather than colonels-at-sea and the “executive curl” returned to sailor’s uniforms, a move embraced with overwhelming fanfare, notwithstanding, for the most part, that this was the sailors’ first time wearing it.
Recognizing this trend, my colleague Senator William Rompkey introduced a private members bill to give Maritime Command a more suitable name. While there was unanimous support to do away with the use of the term Maritime Command, this motion sparked a debate as to what the replacement name should be. Do we go with the descriptive Canadian Navy, or return to the historic name Royal Canadian Navy?
After hearing from former admirals, historians and other witnesses, the Senate national security and defence committee left the final decision in the hands of the government by passing a motion that recommends that Maritime Command be replaced by a new name that includes the word “navy.”
Many Canadians support a return to Royal Canadian Navy, others, the descriptive moniker Canadian Navy; there is no dishonour in the latter. I believe that those serving today would be proud to do so under the title Canadian Navy.
However, the name Royal Canadian Navy still technically exists; it was never abolished. Under the new organizational structure, the navy acquired the name title Maritime Command. Reinstating the name the Royal Canadian Navy designation simply requires approval by the minister of national defence. Giving the navy a name other than the Royal Canadian Navy again rejects our rich and proud Canadian naval history.
With no Royal designation, why continue calling our vessels Her Majesty’s Canadian ships — HMCS Iroquois for example? As the Canadian Forces is one force operationally, should we give new names to famed regiments, such as the Royal Canadian Dragoons or the Royal 22e Régiment?
Discarding Royal from our navy accomplishes what? Advocates for CN suggest Canada has since “fled” Britain’s colonial yoke.
This distorts our past. In 1939 Canada on its own decided when and if to enter World War II, the same conflict that established the Royal Canadian Navy as a world-class navy, shoulder to shoulder with our allies.
No one disputes Canada’s sovereignty. The Queen remains our sovereign. We share her with Britain; it is not Britain’s sovereign who reigns over us. This is what the Statute of Westminster (1931) declares.
The Royal adjective helps to define ourselves along with our policies of bilingualism and multiculturalism. Our nation prospers within these three pillars, essential ingredients of our distinct Canadian identity in North America.
Reinstating the Royal Canadian Navy has nothing to do with Canada’s colonial roots. It honours those risking their lives today by connecting them to those who gave their lives in the past. Scores of currently serving naval personnel have written to me in support of a return to the Royal Canadian Navy.
There is wonderful goodwill attached to our navy’s past. Let us salute the bravery, sacrifice and honour of those serving and those who have served before them.
Our navy was honoured with the designation Royal Canadian Navy 100 years ago. We should re-establish that link with the past as we look toward another century of service by the Royal Canadian Navy.
New Brunswick Senator Joseph Day is a member of the Senate’s national security and defence committee.