Navy Celebrates 100 Years of Outstanding Service

The Queen’s float-by inspection of our navy in Halifax last week added some pageantry to the year-long celebration of the Royal Canadian Navy’s 100th anniversary. As a nation with a rich maritime tradition that boasted the third largest navy in the world at the end of the Second World War, there is much for us to celebrate about the past one hundred years.

Locally, I was fortunate to be on hand this Canada Day as the township of North Shore received a framed photograph of their namesake ship, the HMCS Algoma, which honours the municipality's legacy and connection with Canada’s Navy. I was also able to recognize the Centennial celebrations and honour Naval Veterans at this year’s Decoration Day Ceremonies on Manitoulin Island.

For many Veterans, the navy offered a chance to serve their country while making a good living. Those who served in the navy, and the merchant marines, in the theatre of war took part in a large portion of what became defining moments for our country. It was our central roles in both World Wars that helped Canada move past the status of (former) colony and truly become a nation in the world’s eyes.
The role of these men and women were not confined to World Wars and should be celebrated in a way that remembers this. In addition to the high-profile work done guarding North Atlantic, war-time convoys, our Navy has also patrolled those waters for submarines during the Cold War, helped keep shipping lanes free from pirates in the Arab gulf and delivered hands-on assistance in the aftermath of natural disasters such as those in New Orleans and, more recently, in Haiti.

Veterans’ Affairs has a theme for the Navy’s centennial celebrations, “Bringing the Navy to Canadians.” Considering the number of land-locked communities that might not fully appreciate the important role the Royal Canadian Navy has performed, the theme is a good one.
Planned activities for celebrations include major international fleet assemblies in Victoria and Halifax; a group of naval warships will visit Toronto during the Canadian National Exhibition and an increased number of port visits are planned for both coasts and in the St. Lawrence and Great Lakes.

As we celebrate the anniversary we can also remember the support that is given to our Navy and its Veterans as well. The Navy League of Canada which operated 24 hostels in seaport areas during the Second World War that provided quarters, amenities and special clothing supplies for visiting seamen from all Allied nations, also established the Navy League Cadet Corp , an important element of our Navy culture. Today, the Navy League of Canada has a presence in more than 260 Canadian communities. Their youth programs benefit 15,000 young Canadians every year. Perhaps of more importance to our veterans are the hundreds of Royal Canadian Legions that offer support and vital links to veteran’s peers in our communities.

As we celebrate the Navy’s centennial, reflecting on its past and preparing for its future we can keep in mind the Royal Canadian Navy’s centennial slogan: Commemorate, Celebrate, Commit.