Celebration, Commitment & Commemoration*

* Moderator’s Note: This article was original published in The Nova Scotian on 13 November 2011.

Nova Scotians and Atlantic Canadians have reason to be proud and to celebrate the recent awarding of the combatant portion of the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy (NSPS) to Irving Shipbuilding Inc. This will also be welcome news for the close to 300 Industrial Marine companies across Canada who will benefit from the stability to their industry that the NSPS will bring, not to mention the potential for sub-contracted work on the ships themselves.

Needless to say, this is great news for your navy, as we are now one major step closer to eventually ‘cutting steel’ for our key naval shipbuilding projects. This will include the new class of Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ships (AOPS) that will be purpose-built for operating in the Canadian high-arctic waters. It will also include the replacement of our current supply ships with the Joint Support Ships (JSS), which was awarded to Seaspan Vancouver Shipyards Co. Ltd, as part of the non-combatant portion of the NSPS.  Finally, it will provide the replacements for our current Tribal-class destroyers and eventually, the Canadian Patrol Frigates (CPF), with the Canadian Surface Combatants (CSC).

When the projects above are added to the modernization and life extension of our CPFs that is currently underway through the Halifax-class Modernization/Frigate Life Extension project, and the upcoming completion of the Victoria-class submarine Canadianization programme, it is evident that your navy has embarked on a major and unprecedented renewal of virtually the entire fleet. If that were not enough, we will also be integrating our fleet with the new capabilities of the shipboard helicopter replacement, the Sikorsky Cyclone, and of the upgraded Aurora maritime patrol aircraft, as they are introduced to the Canadian Forces in the near future.

What this means is that your navy will be facing two equally demanding and critical tasks in the coming months and years. First of all we will need to continue succeeding in our operations at home and abroad on behalf of the government and the Canadian people, as I highlighted in my last article. Secondly, we will need to create the conditions for future success as we design, build, and introduce into service, our modernized and new ships.

This will involve maintaining the proper levels of skill among our people even as we train them on the new systems and platforms. It will also involve maintaining and sustaining our older ships at the appropriate levels of readiness, until such time as we can remove them from active duty; either into the shipyard for their upgrading and modernizing, or by introducing their replacement into the fleet. Achieving this delicate balance will require the efforts of the entire Defence Team and your navy is fortunate to have a very capable and committed team of professionals who continue to answer the call and will deliver on our bright future.

The commitment and dedication of our current Defence Team is a testimony to the evolution of our proud military heritage founded on the ethos of service and sacrifice before self. This week we will reflect on our heritage and ethos as we honour and commemorate those upon whose shoulders we now stand and pay tribute to our veterans and fallen comrades.

This year in particular, I would encourage you to take this opportunity to connect the youth of our future with the veterans of our past, especially those from the Second World War. The experiences of our veterans on the shores of Normandy, the fields of Italy and Northern Europe, the treacherous seas of the Atlantic, and over the skies of Europe need to be passed along to successive generations so that we will always remember the sacrifice of life and of youth and innocence. It is important that our younger Canadians appreciate and understand that although nations and societies may start and engage in war, it is normally the youth of a nation that must fight, prevail and win the battles, and ultimately, the war. Time is of the essence as the ranks of our World War Two and Korean veterans are thinning dramatically with each passing year.

In this light, I hope many of you will join us in ceremonies throughout Halifax and Atlantic Canada this Remembrance Day as we pay homage to those that paid the ultimate sacrifice; laying down their life so that we and successive generations of Canadians would enjoy a better life. “Let us not break faith with those who died.”