On 17 August I posted some comments here about Paul Hellyer’s dissent from the government’s decision to restore the titles “Royal Canadian Navy” and “Royal Canadian Air Force”. Hellyer, pictured above, was Minister of Defence under the late PM Pierre Trudeau and axed these titles as part of his restructuring of the Canadian military in the late 1960s.
My post tried to be provocative as well as thoughtful, and it elicited some very thoughtful response. Today I got this great reply from JCanuck and I thought it was a pity to see it buried in the comments portion of an old post, so here it is. Thanks, JCanuck. When time permits I’ll comment on it below but you deserve to have this seen by others.
Honked Off? You did that with spades Mike, however I enjoy your blog. Let’s examine your assertions on the term’Royal’.
You assert not many serving identify with the word Royal “particularly younger ones and especially those who are not of Anglo background”. That is perhaps the way you feel, but it certainly hasn’t been my experience in all the years I have been serving and I write as an 8th generation Canadian married to an immigrant from a visible minority. My wife and children are quite happy with the word Royal. So are Officers I have served with from the Royal 22nd, the ‘Van Doos’. Not only happy with, but proud of the title.
The dropping of the prefix ‘Royal’ at the time of unification was justified on two premises which had little if any merit. Conveniently you repeated them for us. The first was that new Canadians would have trouble identifying with the term ‘Royal’. Very strange as they chose to immigrate to a country that is a constitutional monarchy. They had other choices, no one forced them to come here. They came here out of their own free will. The other premise which you assert is that it creates ‘difficulty’ for French Canadians. The truth is that French Canada sided with the Crown in the wars of 1776 and 1812 and not with the Americans. It was in their interest to do so and we can see how well the French speaking population of Quebec has fared in comparison with their compatriots in Louisiana.
Some genuinely thought in the 1960’s that playing down or eliminating our heritage and traditions would make it easier for newcomers to become Canadians and would put paid to the separatist threat in Quebec. In fact those actions had the opposite result. Newcomers saw no depth of tradition or heritage to adopt and fell back on to the traditions and heritage they had come from in what Reginald Bibby called ‘Mosaic Madness’. They didn’t feel particularly Canadian. Separatists were interested in promoting their own ‘heritage and traditions’ not old or new Canadian ones. Canadians who had treasured their heritage and traditions were hurt by the changes and grew resentful. So negativity all around.
Did you notice that the Australians and New Zealanders, who have large immigrant populations, didn’t feel the need to drop the prefix ‘Royal? No one thinks of Australia or New Zealand as a colony. Interesting to note too that no major country has embarked on the unification route put forth by Hellyer.
Unification also got rid of two Regular Regiments with very long histories that predate the formation of Canada: The Black Watch of Canada and the Queens Own Rifles of Canada. Given that we have more Scottish Blood flowing through Canadian veins than they do in Scotland, that was particularly hurtful.
Canada is constitutional monarch and our titles and symbols should reflect that. Elizabeth II is Queen of Canada (she also has some secondary duties 🙂 )
What has happened this year is not a move backward, but a restoration to what is right and proper. The Royal Canadian Navy brings to mind the Battle of the North Atlantic and the Convoys. The Royal Canadian Air Force connects to the Battle of Britain, Number 6 Group in Bomber Command, the Golden Jets, and the Avro Arrow. The RCAF and RCN connects with heritage and traditions that were bought with service and sacrifice. It’s good for us to remember that and be connected with it. It shows us paying respect for what has gone before and the Canadians that have gone before.
It take a big man to admit that he was wrong. Hellyer isn’t that sort of a man. He never was and never will be.