The Conservative government's decision to restore the traditional designations of the Canadian Forces; the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), Canadian Army and Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) is a welcome move that recognizes a reality that has been long ignored by officialdom: The decades-long attempt to erase the historic designations, and unique identities, of the RCN, Canadian Army and RCAF was a failure.
Who would, given the choice, wish to refer to the Canadian Army as “Land Forces Command” or the Royal Canadian Navy as “Maritime Command”? The restoration of the names hard won in battle during the last century, and in countless operations since, can only serve to reinvigorate pride of service in the Canadian Forces. It represents a mark of respect for the men and women who serve in the defence of our country and its values.
Few would deny closer integration of the Canadian Forces was necessary. Indeed from an organizational standpoint it has been looked to as an example by many other countries around the globe. But it went too far. The move to strip the branches of their pre-1968 traditions and identity was a failure. The government first abandoned the brief and comical elimination of naval ranks following unification (where commanders of Canadian ships became “lieutenant colonels”). Next it dropped the idea of making sailors and air personnel wear green uniforms. The Conservatives have wisely finished the job, ending the bizarre notion that the different branches that make up the Canadian Forces could be homogenized.
The change is purely symbolic; it will not alter the organizational or command structure. But symbolism means a great deal in the military, and so does tradition. And the change will be cost neutral, requires no wrenching parliamentary debate (the proclamations designating the names of the various branches were never revoked, the names simply went into official abeyance), and brings Canada into line with other Commonwealth realms. It's a confident move by the federal government; most members of the Royal Canadian Navy, Canadian Army and Royal Canadian Air Force will embrace their restored designations. Canadians should join them.