Royal renaming for Canadian Forces
By CBC News
Aug. 16, 2011, Halifax - Defence Minister Peter MacKay said Tuesday his government has corrected a historic mistake by restoring the "royal" designation to the air force and navy, a move he says will come at a minimal cost.
By CBC News
At an event in Halifax, MacKay announced the Maritime Command and Air Command will again be known as the Royal Canadian Navy and Royal Canadian Air Force — names that haven't been used in more than four decades. The army, formally known as the Land Force Command, will be renamed the Canadian Army.
The royal designation was removed from the navy and air force in 1968 when the branches were renamed and brought under one central command named the Canadian Armed Forces.
"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. "Today, I am honoured to announce that the three elements of the Canadian Forces will have their historic names restored."
Veterans, military officials and other invited guests in the audience applauded when MacKay made the announcement. The defence minister said restoring the former names of the army, navy and air force is a way of connecting today's Canadian Forces members with a proud history.
He also explained the government's decision by saying it aligns Canada with other key Commonwealth countries whose militaries use the royal designation.
"This change is long overdue," MacKay said, adding that it's "important to correct historic mistakes" when possible.
It was exactly 100 years ago, Aug.16, 1911, that King George V established the Royal Canadian Navy, MacKay noted in his speech.
He thanked the veterans groups who spearheaded the campaign to restore the previous names and said there was a groundswell of support from Canadians who felt it was the right thing to do and he embraced that sentiment.
Jerry Sigrist, executive secretary of the Royal Canadian Naval Association, said the navy now has its rightful name back.
"Canadian naval veterans have waited many years for this," he said following MacKay's speech.
The Naval Officers Association of Canada also issued a statement saying there had been "considerable debate" about the impending announcement and that a firm decision by the government is "warmly welcomed."
CBC News contacted Buckingham Palace and was told the Queen is aware of the royal name change.
The Royal Canadian Legion said the name changes are an "emotional issue" for veterans.
"The Royal Canadian Legion is pleased that the government is recognizing long-standing traditions that have served us well during our military history," a statement said.
The group's president, Patricia Varga, said the Legion's only concern is that costs associated with the changes might eat up budgets for operations and services for members of the military. She said she has been assured that won't happen.
MacKay said the name changes will have "zero impact" on operational capabilities and have "minimal cost implications."
The defence minister said the name changes will be phased in over a period of time. Asked to put a price tag on the decision, MacKay said it was "priceless," and when pushed, he again said the costs will be minimal.
He then said the costs can't be calculated up front because the addition of "royal" to various uniforms, equipment, letterhead, flags and other items won't be done all at once.
He also rejected the criticism that the government's decision signals closer ties with the British monarchy and diminishes Canada's sovereignty. MacKay said Canada's ties to the Crown "are very real," particularly when it comes to the Canadian Forces, and that those links have "no impact whatsoever" on operational matters and sovereign decisions.
"I believe that this is consistent, I believe that this is about continuity, it's about respect for our past," he said, "And I believe that this is something that the majority of Canadians will embrace."
MacKay said it doesn't diminish Canada's independence or contributions on the world stage.
He also noted that this summer's visit to Canada by Prince William and his wife Kate helped reinvigorate Canadians' sense of history and connectivity to Britain.
The NDP's defence critic Jack Harris, however, said returning to the royal designation is "unnecessary" and "divisive." He told CBC News in an interview Monday that Canadians have pride in their military institutions because they are Canadian, not because of their attachment to the monarchy.