When the Canadian government decided in 1968 to remove the word royal from its armed forces there was lots of opposition, especially among those men and women who had served in war and peacetime. For many of those, the decision Tuesday to return the word to the navy and air force moniker will be welcome.
However, perhaps unknowingly the government has reopened the debate about the role of the monarchy in Canada’s affairs and whether using the term compromises our nation’s sovereignty and the desire among some to cut the apron strings to Britain once and for all.
During a ceremony on Tuesday, Defence Minister Peter MacKay announced the Maritime Command and Air Command will again be known as the Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal Canadian Air Force. The army will be renamed the Canadian Army.
“Our government believes that an important element of Canadian military heritage was lost when these three former services were required to relinquish their historic titles,” the minister said.
The move has been applauded by those who support continued ties with the Royal Family and builds on the successful and very popular visit last month by Prince William and his new bride. It is also being applauded by the Royal Canadian Legion that said the move reaffirms the tradition and the armed forces’ links with the Crown.
As popular as the return is to some, there are detractors – including former defence minister Paul Hellyer, the man who led the change as part of the Pierre Trudeau government.
To Hellyer, reusing the royal term returns Canada’s air force and navy to “semi-colonial status while the New Democrats were quick to call it a divisive issue that really shouldn’t be a priority for the government.
There is little doubt this issue is going to be a divisive one in whether we need to continue to hold on to those apron strings at a time when many Canadians are hoping and praying another recession doesn’t take their jobs or another market meltdown doesn’t wipe out their savings.