The Royal Canadian Navy says a “lack of clarity” about an order issued earlier this month resulted in “confusion and insult” to older veterans who thought they had to ask for permission to wear their uniforms in public.

In a letter sent to media outlets and posted on the Navy’s website, Vice-Admiral Mark Norman said the standing order requiring veterans to obtain written permission to wear their uniforms does not include “historic headdress, medals, and uniforms that are no longer in use.”

“The Royal Canadian Navy holds veterans in the highest regard and has no intent or authority to limit the wearing of older orders of dress, such as wartime patterns,” he wrote.

Norman said the order applies to retired Navy members who want to wear current pattern uniforms, specifically Mess Dress – a formal evening uniform.

“This specific pattern of uniform still exists and is worn by active serving members. It is important therefore to avoid any confusion in identity between those who are on active service and those who are retired and no longer subject to the same rules and expectations as their serving colleagues,” he said.

Norman said the use of old Navy uniforms and decorations “should continue and be encouraged.”

The internal order was circulated among veterans’ groups and reporters last week, leading some of those who had served in the Second World War and the Korean War to believe that they could no longer wear their sailor uniforms without RCN’s approval.

Some vowed to continue wearing their old dress at events like Canada Day, despite what the rules say.