It gives me great pleasure to thank Vanguard magazine for celebrating and commemorating the navy in this 100th year of service to Canada by dedicating a Canadian Navy Centennial corner in every edition published this year.
As you read this message, the men and women of Canada’s navy are working hard around the world, from Haiti to the Indian Ocean and Afghanistan, in numerous missions large and small, as well as seeing to the defence and security of Canada, through contributions such as are now in place to support the Winter Olympics. Vanguard’s generous initiative salutes them all.
The Canadian Navy Centennial corner, however, is not just a tribute to the work that Maritime Command is performing today. It’s a tribute to every generation of Canadian sailors who preceded us, and from whom we draw our inspiration.
The decision to establish a national naval service in 1910 was a defining moment for a still-young dominion: a clear and historic strategic choice to build a navy for Canada rather than cruisers for the Royal Navy. Today, that choice to pursue a sovereign capacity for independent action at sea is embodied in the Canadian Task Group.
As I look back at our first century, what truly stands out for me is how closely the story of our navy parallels the development of Canada itself. Each came from humble beginnings but aspired to contribute beyond our shores. Each modelled itself in the remarkable institutions of the United Kingdom. For the Naval Service of Canada, as it was known 99 years ago, the Royal Navy was a natural choice, acknowledged as the premiere fighting service of the day.
Both Canada and her navy came of age in the crucible of war. It is said that the young nation first gained a true sense of its own capacity, character and identity as a result of its national sacrifice and victory achieved at Vimy Ridge during the Great War. Her navy certainly acquired that sense of capacity, essential purpose and identity in the long struggle of the Battle of the Atlantic, in the moments of the nation’s most urgent peril during the Second World War. Both country and navy have carried this sense into the present day, where both are recognized and respected on the world stage, as much for their labours in peace as those in war.
Although it was a defining experience, your navy was standing watch long before the Battle of Atlantic, and it has continued to stand the watch ever since, “ready, aye ready.”
It patrolled the coasts of Korea during the first conflict fought under the banner of the United Nations. It kept a ceaseless vigil throughout the course of a long Cold War. It deployed to the Persian Gulf as part of an international response to the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq. It responded to the attacks of September 11th in sustained global maritime operations to counter international terrorism. Today, your navy continues to protect Canada and its interests against menaces both new and old, at home and abroad.
The purpose of the navy’s centennial is not just to tell this great story to all Canadians. It’s to publicly renew our commitment to Canada. On the eve of our second century, I can’t pretend to foresee all the challenges that await us in the decades ahead. But neither could Sir Wilfred Laurier, when he looked forward from 1910. But he held an abiding faith in what Canada stood for and a vision of the country as a leading member of the community of nations – a vision that our navy helped to secure, in peace and war, and as we continue to sustain today.
That alone gives me great confidence for our next century, because Sir Wilfred Laurier’s vision remains undiminished nearly 100 years later: that Canadians will continue to strive to make a difference, knowing that the world will not be as we wish but rather as we are prepared to help make it.
Vice Admiral Dean McFadden is Chief of the Maritime Staff and Commander MARCOM. Most recently, he served as Commander Canada Command and prior to that, as Commander MARLANT / JTF(Atlantic). He has led at every level of command in the navy – ship, operations group, fleet and formation. Among his many accomplishments, he led a Joint / Inter-agency Task Group in support of the disaster relief mission to the United States in the wake of hurricane Katrina in 2005.