Reflections on Canada, the State, the Nation and the Navy

CNR, Vol. 11, No. 2 (2015)

In his article, Marc Milner notes that in the classic model of seapower the navy and the nation are fused into a single organic being. This is not the case in Canada. Milner points out that although Canada is dependent upon overseas markets and is girded by three oceans, it does not have an organic naval policy. In that sense, it might be argued that Canada has not yet created the ‘correct’ relationship between the state and the navy – or even between the nation and the navy. He argues that the experience that Canada needs to study is not that of Great Britain but that of France. In contrast to Britain, where seapower was an expression of national will through the instrument of Parliament and the interests of the monied classes, French seapower was both widely regionalized and remote from the seat of political power. Like France, the capital of Canada is far from the coasts and from the country’s maritime economy. Milner concludes that the RCN’s key battleground has always been Ottawa, and it neglects the politics of procurement at its peril. Thus, “as the French navy knew only too well, if you want to build a fleet you need to have the ear of the King.”

Marc Milner is Director of the Gregg Centre for the Study of War and Society at the University of New Brunswick.

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