Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Liberal name change

The federal government has taken the liberty of changing the names of the new RCN Joint Support Ships (JSS) . Originally to be named the Queenston class the new ships will now be named the Protecteur class. Queenston will become Protecteur and Chateauguay will become Preserver continuing the names of the ships they will replace.

The original names were chosen by the previous Conservative government and reflected then Prime Minister Stephen Harper's preoccupation with the War of 1812-14. They commemorated two significant battles of the war, fought between "Canadians" (not yet a nation) and Americans. They hardly seemed to be diplomatically correct in terms of fostering good relations with our southern neighbours, so perhaps the change reflects the current government's fraught re-negotiations of NAFTA and that other issues between the two countries need to be worked out amicably.

In order to speed up delivery of the two ships, Seaspan Marine in Vancouver has told by the current government to delay construction of the new Polar class icebreaker which has been named John G. Diefenbaker. Do we see a pattern emerging here? Can we expect another renaming in the offing? Perhaps a Lester B. Pearson or even another well known former Liberal Prime Minister's name would be applied - would it be similar to the current Liberal Prime Minister's name? Would it be wise to make the change before the 2018 federal election, when the ship will not likely be delivered until 2021-well into a possible second mandate?
Oh horrors.

The new HMCS Protecteur will be the second ship of the name in the RCN, but HMCS Preserver will be the third. A pair of  World War II tankers were named Preserver and Provider and served as Fairmile depot ships until paid off at the end of the war and sold to South America. When Canada built its first post war supply ship, it was named Provider but a second ship of the class was never built.

The navy explains the new name change respects the previous ships and those who served on them. This is the same explanation that has been given in the past to cover a lack of imagination in ships naming, a change in naming policy or to overcome controversy  (CCGS Edward Cornwallis (ii) was not named for the man but for the previous ship of the same name according to a CCG official.)

Quite frankly if the RCN can't develop esprit de corps without reverting to nostalgia they need a wakeup call. When the name change is so overtly political do they think that matelots are too stupid to recognize it for what it is? And what message does it send to the forces - that they serve at the whim of political parties or that they serve all the people of Canada no matter their political affiliation?

I have a couple of suggestions for another name change for the JSS ships. They should be named Kitchener and Waterloo after two adjoining cities in southern Ontario.

Since the new ships will be built to the German Berlin class, we will be reminded that the City of Kitchener was named Berlin until 1916 when it was changed in view of the anti-German sentiment of the First World War. Many Canadians of German ancestry experienced discrimination solely because their names sound German.

We will also be reminded of the battle of Waterloo (in Belgium), wherein Prussian and British troops defeated Napoleon Bonaparte in 1815, resulting in his abdication as emperor of France. It was this war in Europe that distracted the British from the War of 1812-14 in North America, and largely left Canada on its own to defend itself. Napoleon met his Waterloo and we should all remember the necessity of overcoming the aspirations of all those who want to conquer the word.

So something to learn from the significance of the names of two ships other than how to score political points.


  1. I think the World War II support ships were named "Protector" and "Preserver".

  2. I agree with the Berlin Ontario reference Mac but The Navy should also outright purchase the Asterix and name her Cambridge to round out the KWC Class and region.