The streets of Halifax and Victoria were filled with sailors Tuesday as the Canadian navy celebrated its 100 anniversary -- a milestone marked by events across the country and a royal proclamation.

Under bright sunny skies, 1,000 navy personnel marched from HMC Dockyard to the Grand Parade at Halifax city hall. Hundreds of spectators lined the parade route, many waving flags.

The navy requested the Freedom of the City in Halifax for its centenary. The ceremony dates back to the 15th century in England and grants military units the right to enter a city with drums beating and bayonets fixed.

The commander of Maritime Forces Atlantic, Rear Admiral Paul Maddison, knocked on the doors of city hall with the butt of his sword three times before Halifax Mayor Peter Kelly answered and granted the request.

The royal proclamation pays tribute to the navy and all those who have served.

"The men and women who have served in Canada's naval forces, both regular and reserve, over the past century have embodied the virtues of courage, commitment and sacrifice in the defence of Canada and Canadian interests, and in the advancement of peace and security around the world," it states.

Gen. Walter Natynczyk, the Canadian Forces chief of defence staff, called the Halifax parade a "fine honour" for the navy.

"Your outstanding service is at the very heart of the outstanding history that we celebrate in this centennial year," Natynczyk said. "Sailor for sailor, ship for ship, we have the finest navy in the world."

In Victoria, a similar ceremony to the one in Halifax saw Rear Admiral Tyrone Pile knock three times on the doors of city hall and request the freedom of the city. Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin granted the request.

After a parade through downtown Victoria, Pile said: "The Canadian navy continues to excel, punching above its weight class and fulfilling key leadership roles at home and around the world."

In Ottawa, Prime Minister Stephen Harper was present as chief of maritime staff, Vice-Admiral Dean McFadden, presented a ship's bell to the people of Canada.

Dozens of navy personnel were also welcomed to the Senate, where Harper declared Tuesday Canadian Navy Centennial Day. During the ceremony, a chief petty officer rang eight bells to mark the four hours that make up one naval watch.

The Queen will pay tribute to the navy when she visits in June.

Bittersweet homecoming

Earlier Tuesday the HMCS Fredericton returned to port in Halifax after a six-month mission, highlighting a bittersweet day.

The ship and her crew of 240 participated in anti-piracy and counter-terrorism operations in the Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.

While there were many hugs and tears of joy as families were reunited Tuesday, there was also sadness amid news that the navy lost one of its sailors in Afghanistan a day earlier.

Petty Officer (second class) Craig Blake, 37, was killed by an explosive device Monday near Kandahar City, shortly after defusing another device. He had been stationed in Halifax for more than ten years.

Maddison said the navy was grieving for their fallen shipmate.

"I always tell our sailors here in Halifax that we stand on the shoulders of our veterans -- those who have sailed before us, who when necessary paid the ultimate sacrifice -- and here we are all celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Canadian navy and we have one gallant sailor upon whose shoulders we will stand," he told Canada AM.

Natynczyk said there have been more than 100 sailors who have been rotated into Afghanistan.

"Great sailors like Petty Officer Craig Blake, who was a diver and an expert when it comes to explosives," he said. "Today was an incredibly bittersweet day, with great pride in our navy and appreciation for great sailors and wonderful families we have here and at the same time, sorrow for the loss of our shipmate."

HMCS Fredericton docked in Halifax Tuesday after a short visit to St. John's, N.L. on the weekend.

In December, Fredericton assisted a vessel that had been captured and held by Somali pirates for two months.

The mission was the last deployment at sea for Cmdr. Steven Waddell, HMCS Fredericton's commanding officer. He is taking a desk job in Ottawa.

"We did a great job working with a lot of other partners . . . suppressing piracy, maintaining maritime security, and we did that everyday out there," he told Canada AM.

Waddell was the ship's commanding officer for two years. He was greeted in Halifax by his wife and two children.

He said about two-thirds of the Fredericton's crew members were on their first major deployment.

Navy in need of re-supply ships

During a few moments away from Tuesday's festivities, McFadden acknowledged that the navy is badly in need of new supply vessels.

"The ocean estate over which we claim jurisdiction is immense," McFadden told CTV's Power Play. "Three ocean approaches now to Canada, and that area requires that we're able to sustain maritime forces at sea for long durations. Which means you have to have the ability to put the gas tank out to sea, you have to have the ability to re-supply."

McFadden said officials have taken the last year to reevaluate "how we build ships in this country." He also hailed the Canada First Defence Strategy, a roadmap for modernizing the Canadian Forces.

But McFadden said the time has come to wrap up discussions and get new ships into the water.

"The ability to move from the restructure to get on with the laying of keels will not be a long process, but we need to get on with it," McFadden said. "Those discussions over the last year, for me as the customer, aren't about process, they're about product. We need to get on with that business."

And while he pointed out that he has more important things to worry about, McFadden said he supported the idea of officially changing the navy's name from Maritime Command to the Canadian Navy.

"I think most sailors, I think most Canadians, don't really have any connection with something called Maritime Command. That's an organizational construct," McFadden said. "But certainly the Canadian Navy resonates, it resonates with our sailors. I think when I hear people talk about it, they refer to us as the Canadian Navy. I think it's a recognition of a truly national, unifying institution."