Navy, air force going 'royal' once again

Defence Minister Peter MacKay. (QMI Agency Files)

Defence Minister Peter MacKay. (QMI Agency Files)

Bryn Weese, Parliamentary Bureau

, Last Updated: 11:17 AM ET

OTTAWA - The Canadian navy and air force are going back to their royal roots on Tuesday, and it will finally be OK to call it the army again, too.

The three branches of the armed forces will drop the bureaucratic bafflegab monikers Maritime Command, Air Command and Land Force Command and will officially revert to Royal Canadian Navy, Royal Canadian Air Force and Canadian Army, respectively, names that ceased to be used in 1968 when the three branches were unified with the army as the Canadian Forces.

The announcement comes 100 years, to the day, after King George granted Royal Consent to call the Naval Service of Canada the Royal Canadian Navy.

"Our Conservative government believes that an important element of Canada’s military heritage was lost when the three former services were required to relinquish their historic titles," said a senior government official Tuesday.

"Restoring these names is an essential part of our government's commitment to acknowledge our nation's proud history, to celebrate our heritage and to honour the memories of so many brave Canadians who have sacrificed in service to Canada."

Last year, during the navy's 100th anniversary, the Senate studied what to do about the name of Maritime Command, following a motion by former Liberal Senator Bill Rompkey to rename it the Canadian Navy.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay is announcing the name changes in Halifax on Tuesday.

But NDP defence critic Jack Harris said the government is making a "wrong move" by bringing back the royal designation because it doesn’t reflect the modern traditions of the forces branches and it will prove divisive among Canadians.

"We have no problem with officially recognizing that the maritime command is actually the Canadian Navy or the Air Command as the Canadian Air Force," Harris said. "But we think the use of the term 'royal,' which has been out of use for over 40 years, is unnecessary and, in fact, divisive and shouldn't be adopted.”

According to the government, the name changes are symbolic only and will not change the command structure of the Canadian Forces and will be done in a "fiscally responsible fashion."

Support organizations for each of the three groups were thrilled Monday with the news. Louise Mercier, vice-president of maritime affairs with the Navy League of Canada, even said it feels like a "birthday party.”

"Names are important, history is important, and I think calling a navy a navy resonates with Canadians," Mercier said.

"It recognizes our history, it recognizes the sacrifices that have been made, and it also makes it a lot easier to rally your men and women around Royal Canadian Navy than a name like Maritime Command.”


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