MacKay: Renaming military corrects 'historical mistake'
Published Tuesday, August 16, 2011 10:29PM EDT
Canada's air force and navy will undergo a name change that honours the military's royal roots, Defence Minister Peter MacKay announced Tuesday.
Speaking in Halifax, MacKay said the Canadian air force, now officially named Air Command, will be renamed the Royal Canadian Air Force.
The navy, now called Maritime Command, will once again be known as the Royal Canadian Navy.
And the army, known as Land Force Command, will now be called the Canadian Army.
MacKay said the decision corrects a "historical mistake" that was made when the various branches of the military were renamed around 1970, with the word "royal" removed.
"After all, it was under these names that the Royal Canadian Navy, Canadian Army and Royal Canadian Air Force brought Canadians great honour," MacKay said.
"They fought and died in conflicts from the fields of Europe, the beaches of Normandy, the battle of Britain and the battle of Kapyong and now in the dusty fields of Afghanistan."
Retired Maj. Gen. Lewis MacKenzie told CTV News Channel on Tuesday afternoon that the renaming will have very little impact on the institution.
"I'm happy for the vets, I know they lobbied hard but it's not going to affect the sharp end," he said.
Other events were held simultaneously across the country to mark the transition.
The announcement marks a return to historic names for the three branches of the military that were used up until 1968.
When the three divisions were united under the Canadian Forces banner, the names were dropped.
According to media reports, a Canadian Forces document described the move as a return to "an important and recognizable part of Canada's military heritage."
Philip Gray, an 88-year-old Second World War veteran who piloted a bomber in the Royal Air Force, welcomed the return of the word "royal" to the military nomenclature.
He said Canada earned the title during the war, and he was sad to see it go when it was removed in 1968.
"We didn't get it for nothing, we really earned the name and to see the other air forces standing there with royal in front of their name and Canada not, didn't seem right somehow," Gray told CTV.
Not everyone agrees.
Christian Leuprecht, an associate professor at Kingston, Ont.'s Queens University, called it a "symbolic" move for the forces at a time when it's facing fiscal challenges.
New Democrat MP Jack Harris said the name-change is divisive among Canadians, and many feel it represents a step backwards.
"We are a modern nation, an independent nation which has had the Canadian Forces for over 40 years and we think we should keep it that way because it's an emblematic part of Canada," Harris told CTV news Channel.
On Tuesday, a group dubbed Citizens for a Canadian Republic also came out against the name change, calling it a "backward move, designed to appeal to conservative traditionalists."
The group's spokesperson warned in a statement that the decision could backfire.
"Canada has been accustomed to moving away from colonialist symbols, not toward them," said CCR spokesperson Tom Freda.
"I can't imagine the mainstream public in 2011 seeing this decision as positive."
He added that the decision reflects outdated "1950s values."
The Toronto-based group also predicted that the financial cost of the changeover will be "considerable," something MacKay denied. He said the cost would be minimal and there would be no structural or organizational changes within military ranks.