Peter MacKay, Canada’s Minister of National Defense, announced Aug. 16, 2011 that the government of Canada had restored the use of the historic designations of the three former services: the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), the Canadian Army (CA), and the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF).
“Restoring these historic identities is an important way of reconnecting today’s men and women in uniform with the proud history and traditions they carry with them as members of the Canadian Forces,” said MacKay. “A country forgets its past at its own peril. From Vimy Ridge to the Battle of the Atlantic and from Korea to the defense of Europe during the Cold War, the proud legacy of the Royal Canadian Navy, the Canadian Army, and the Royal Canadian Air Force will once again serve as a timeless link between our veterans and serving soldiers, sailors and air personnel.”
On Feb. 1, 1968, the Canadian government altered the National Defense Act in order to unify the Canadian Forces, a decision that was controversial at the time and remained so over the intervening years. The Royal Canadian Navy, Canadian Army, and Royal Canadian Air Force lost the honorifics bestowed by the king of England and were renamed “Maritime Command,” “Land Force Command,” and “Air Command,” becoming mere components, some felt, of “Canadian Forces,” and thereby losing their individual identities as institutions and the heritage and pride that went with them.
“I am extremely proud of our men and women in uniform and even more proud to be honoring the rich history of our military,” said Chief of Defense Staff Gen. Walt Natynczyk. “By restoring the historic designations of the Canadian Forces we are continuing to show unified strength here at home, and abroad.”
By reinstating the historical designations Royal Canadian Navy, Canadian Army, and Royal Canadian Air Force, the government is recognizing Canada’s military heritage and restoring each individual service’s pride in the history of its name. Dating back to the first half of the 20th century, these were the names of the services that fought and emerged victorious from World War I, World War II, and Korea, and made major contributions to deterring the Soviet Union and defending Europe and North America during the Cold War.
The recent anniversaries of the air and naval components of Canadian Forces brought to the fore the long-running movements to have the names restored, and indeed one gesture in that direction that coincided with the navy’s anniversary was restoring the “executive curl” to the uniform, which had been deleted in the 1968 unification.