In a ceremony celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Canadian Naval Reserve, Gov. Gen. Mary Simon has rededicated the National Naval Reserve Monument at HMCS Carleton in Ottawa.
Vice-Admiral Angus Topshee, the commander of the Royal Canadian Navy, said the ceremony this past weekend was an opportunity to celebrate what then-rear admiral Walter Hose began in 1923.
“His idea was to make sure that Canadians were connected to their navy and so he created 12- half companies of naval reserves across Canada, and today I think we celebrate that vision because we’ve realized it,” Topshee told Capital Current following the event.
Topshee says Canada now has 24 naval reserve units, made up of more than 4,000 sailors, based in communities across the country.
The National Reserve Monument was dedicated by then Gov. Gen. Roland Michener in 1973 to mark the Naval Reserve’s 50th anniversary. The monument was revitalized this year for the 100thanniversary.
Simon said she believes it is important for new generations to understand the services and dedication given by the Navy for the past 100 years.
“The Navy is part of Canadian history and the Navy continues to be a very important part of our country and it has safeguarded our country many times and has helped citizens, and overseas, it has done so much tremendous work,” she told Capital Current following the event.
To mark the day, Simon wore a Navy uniform for the first time as Governor General.
“It was a real honour to come here,” she said.
The ceremony had many attendees including members of the Navy League and sea cadets as young as nine.
Chief Petty Officer 2nd class (CPO2) Cadet Annika Stefanov told Capital Current the event is important for younger cadets to witness and connect to the history of the reserves.
“It’s quite cool to be seeing that as a cadet and then possibly be part of that in the future,” she said.
Navy League members and the sea cadets wore their uniforms and participated in the ceremony by handing out brochures to the attendees.
The acting president for the Ottawa branch of the Navy League of Canada, and vice president of the sea cadets for all of Ontario, for the Navy League of Canada, Karin Duval told Capital Current, “our program is dedicated to the knowledge of the Navy. It’s about learning everything in anything you can learn on a ship off the ship It’s learning about having teamwork, it’s learning about getting new friends and becoming friends.”
“It’s really important for young people to really understand the role of the navy, and to get interested in it and to be part of it, because we need people in all the sectors of the armed forces,” said Gov. Gen. Mary Simon.
The commanding officer of HMCS Carleton, Chris Knowlton, told Capital Current, he believes it’s important to connect back to 50 years ago and remember the Battle of the Atlantic which enabled victory during the Second World War by keeping the sea lanes open to Europe.
Knowlton said the connections to the past help with the connections of the future.
“Having [past reservists] at that ceremony connects us with the past. But more importantly, is connecting with the citizen sailors of today and as well as future sailors that are going to come through these doors to serve Canada,” he said.
Cmdre Patrick J. Montgomery said the Navy plays a significant role in Canada especially with the recent Indo-Pacific Strategy. There are three Canadians ships in that region — HMCS Ottawa; HMCS Vancouver and the Naval Replenishment Unit, Asterix.
Montgomery added that the Navy plays a vital role in defending Canada’s sovereignty in the north.
“The new HMCS Harry DeWolf, one of our new Arctic offshore patrol ships, which gives Canada the ability to have a presence in the Arctic all year round, is something we haven’t had since the 1950s. So it’s certainly of importance to the Navy, and we’re pleased to have the ability to represent Canadians in the north,” said Montgomery.
Topshee said, the ceremony was memorable for everyone participating and attending, and if this is going to be a bicentennial event, then he’s glad the Navy has 100 years to plan the next one and to make sure it tops the one from Oct. 14.
HMCS Carleton, sometimes referred to as the ‘stone frigate,’ is a land-based naval training establishment at the edge of Dow’s Lake. The original building was demolished in 2013 and a new one was officially opened in 2015. The site is named after the schooner HMCS Carleton, which is credited with saving Canada for the British against French forces on New Year’s Eve 1775-76.