Protecting Canada’s Ocean War Graves

Under Canadian law, there are currently no protections for the remains of Canada’s sailors and merchant mariners lost at sea from the First and Second World Wars.

For the past 5 years, Merchant Navy Captain (ret’d) and Second World War Veteran, Paul Bender, has been carrying the torch to ensure the remains of Canada’s sailors and merchant mariners are given the same protection and respect as the remains of our soldiers and aviators buried on land. Captain Bender estimates that there are remains of approximately 1,200 of Canadian sailors and merchant mariners lying at rest in 9 wrecks in Canadian, international and foreign waters. None of them have been afforded the necessary protection to discourage salvaging and desecration.

Project Naval Distinction calls on the government and Parliament of Canada to:

  1. issue a policy statement affirming the government of Canada’s intention to provide legal protection for Canada’s ocean war graves and make a formal request to the government of the United Kingdom to protect Canadian ocean war graves in UK waters;
  2. use any available legislative and executive powers to provide immediate protection for Canada’s ocean war graves, as an intermediate measure until stand-alone legislation can be enacted; and
  3. enact stand-alone legislation to provide legal protection for Canada’s ocean war graves, ensuring the punishment for desecration is in line with the punishment for desecration of land-based war graves.

Our Executive Director, Patrick White, was privileged to testify before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities on February 7th, 2018 and March 19th, 2018 to add our support to closing an egregious gap in Canadian law.

Project Naval Distinction is proud to offer our full support to Captain Bender in the fight to provide legal protection for Canada’s ocean war graves.

 

Responding to your comments & concerns

Recently we have received a number of comments from Canadians regarding the response to the petition initiated by Project Naval Distinction calling for the Royal Canadian Navy to honour the greatest ship in Canadian history: Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Haida.

In his response, the Minister of National Defence, confirmed that HMCS Haida will be designated “the Flagship of the [Royal Canadian Navy] for ceremonial purposes.” In providing greater detail, the Minister goes on to say:

  • “While the RCN will not provide the crew, funding or any official unit designation that are usually provided for a commissioned warship in the RCN…”
  • “As such, RCN will designate an Honorary Commanding Officer for the HMCS HAIDA [sic] from an existing RCN unit such as the Naval Reserve unit HMCS STAR in Hamilton, where HMCS HAIDA is located…”
  • “As the ceremonial Flagship of the RCN, HMCS HAIDA will fly the new Canadian Naval Ensign instead of the White Ensign the ship flew while in commission up until 1963.”

We would like to offer the following clarifications:

  1. The Minister drafted his response independent of Project Naval Distinction.
  2. While Project Naval Distinction has openly called for HMCS Haida to be named the Flagship of the Royal Canadian Navy, we understand the benefit to name a specific flag officer associated with a flagship, in keeping with the naval use of the term ‘flagship’. Here, for example, HMCS Haida could be named Flagship of the Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy, the highest ranking naval officer in Canada.
  3. The naming of an Honorary Captain of HMCS Haida, such as the Commanding Officer of Naval Reserve Division HMCS Star, which could include a non-sea trade officer (e.g. logistics, intelligence), who may have never been to sea, is an idea developed independent of Project Naval Distinction. Project Naval Distinction believes that any titling of an individual with HMCS Haida should be based on merit and in recognition of truly exemplary service, and not on proximity to HMCS Haida where she is currently berthed.
  4. The removal of any historic artifacts from HMCS Haida, such as the White Ensign the Haida proudly flew during the Second World War and the Korean War, is an idea developed independent of Project Naval Distinction.

The Project Naval Distinction team has always hoped to be included in discussions on ways to honour and celebrate the ‘fightingest’ ship in Canadian history, particularly because as an independent, citizen-initiative we have a direct line of communication with Canadians from coast to coast to coast. However, the communicated decisions regarding any honour that will be given to HMCS Haida and associated ceremony are those of the government of Canada and the Royal Canadian Navy.

Project Naval Distinction will continue to work to promote HMCS Haida‘s incredible history and we offer our support to the government of Canada and the Royal Canadian Navy to ensure the recognition to be given to the Haida is done with dignity and respect.

HMCS Haida to be named RCN Flagship

In response to a petition started by Project Naval Distinction Founder and Executive Director, Patrick White, the Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan has confirmed that Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Haida will be named Flagship of the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) in 2018. The response was tabled in the House of Commons on January 29th, 2018 (included below).

“Recognition of HMCS Haida, the ‘fightingest’ ship in Canadian history, as the Royal Canadian Navy Flagship has been a prime objective of Project Naval Distinction and is a symbolic way of honouring her incredible story,” White said.

The Haida has not been formally recognized by the RCN since she was paid off (retired from service) in 1963, despite being considered to be the ‘Vimy Ridge’ or ‘Billy Bishop’ of the RCN. She currently serves as a museum ship and National Historic Site alongside Hamilton, ON, after having been located alongside Toronto for 40 years.

Project Naval Distinction is calling for the Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy to be named the Honorary Captain of the Haida and a ceremony to take place during Veterans’ Week in November, when Canadians are focused on honouring the service and sacrifice of our Veterans.

In a letter sent to the Minister of Finance Bill Morneau in December 2017, Project Naval Distinction submitted two designs for circulation currency coins and is awaiting a response to confirm if they will be produced in time for the Flagship ceremony.

Project Naval Distinction would like to thank all of our supporters who signed our Founder’s petition, signed up to send letters to the Minister and spread the work about what we are trying to achieve. There’s more to do!

The passing of Neil Bruce

After learning of the passing of Mr. John Neil Bruce, the man who led the effort to save HMCS HAIDA from the scrapyard, our founder wrote a letter to Canada’s largest newspapers, which was published in the Toronto Star.

Upon receiving the letter, the Globe and Mail reached out to confirm their interest in writing a long obituary for Mr. Bruce: “Veteran Neil Bruce saved the Haida — a storied Canadian warship”

What Neil Bruce did in saving HMCS HAIDA, Canada’s ‘fightingest’ ship, and its incredible history from the scrapyard was akin to stopping a highway from being built over Vimy Ridge. Canadians owe him a debt of gratitude.

The Project Naval Distinction team would like to thank Mr. Bruce for his service and gift to future generations of Canadians, while extending our best thoughts to the Bruce family.

 

Update: 19 September 2017 – Mr. Bruce’s passing was pointed out to the highest level of officials at Parks Canada. To date, we are not aware of any recognition of this sad event by Parks Canada, the Department of National Defence or the Royal Canadian Navy.

It’s official: our E-petition is now live!

Project Naval Distinction’s petition to the Government of Canada is now live! We’re calling for HMCS HAIDA to be named the flagship of the Royal Canadian Navy, the exploration of including her as a permanent part of the Canadian War Museum and the creation of a commemorative coin featuring all three ‘tri-service icons of excellence’: Vimy Ridge, Billy Bishop and the fightingest ship in Canada, HMCS HAIDA!

SIGN THE PETITION TODAY: https://petitions.parl.gc.ca/en/Petition/Sign/e-560

Project Naval Distinction welcomes the support of the Canadian Aboriginal Veterans and Serving Members Association

CAVAToday, Project Naval Distinction is pleased to announce the support of the Canadian Aboriginal Veterans and Serving Members Association:

HMCS Haida was named in honour of the spirit of cooperation that has always existed between Canada’s Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities during times of conflict. Recognizing the Haida as the flagship of the Royal Canadian Navy is a great way to celebrate that spirit.

–Richard Blackwolf, President, Canadian Aboriginal Veterans and Serving Members Association

To support Project Naval Distinction and our Canadian Armed Forces, please sign up to send a letter of support today.

Project Naval Distinction welcomes support of The Hon. Ian Holloway

Today, Project Naval Distinction is pleased to announce the support of University of Calgary Dean of Law, and Veteran of the Royal Canadian Navy, Dr. Ian Holloway:

Project Naval Distinction is a wonderful initiative.  For Canada, there is no more fitting ship than HMCS Haida – the “fightingest ship” of the Second World War — to be named the flagship of the Royal Canadian Navy. Today – more than seventy years after the fact – the actions of Haida stand as a testament to the spirit and ethos of the Royal Canadian Navy – a spirit and ethos which remain just as important now as they were then.

As Royal Navy has the Victory, and the U.S. Navy has the Constitution, Canada150 is the perfect time for Canada to give just and due appreciation to the Haida.

–The Hon. Ian Holloway P.C., C.D., Q.C. (ex-Chief Petty Officer)

To support Project Naval Distinction and our Canadian Armed Forces, please sign up to send a letter of support today.

Photograph of Ian HollowayAbout The Hon. Ian Holloway

Ian Holloway has been Dean of Law at the University of Calgary since 2011. Prior to this, Ian served eleven years as dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Western Ontario and a term as associate dean at the Australian National University. Over the years, he has also held appointments at Cambridge and the National University of Singapore. He is a graduate of Dalhousie University, the University of California at Berkeley and the Australian National University. He is also an alumnus of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and the John F Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. In his career, he has published two books, a number of book chapters, and many refereed articles published in law journals in Canada and around the world. In addition, he has published a book on naval history as well as twenty-five essays or other pieces in various legal and non-legal periodicals.

Beyond the legal sphere, Ian spent a total of twenty-five  years serving in the Royal Canadian and Royal Australian Navies. In 1989, he was awarded the Canadian Forces Decoration. In 1992, he was awarded the Commemorative Medal for the 125th Anniversary of Canadian Confederation, and in 2013, he was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.

http://law.ucalgary.ca/law_unitis/profiles/ian-holloway

Project Naval Distinction officially launched!

Today, Project Naval Distinction officially launched.

We are already starting to receive support from citizens across Canada.

The race is now on to encourage as many Canadians as possible to support the Project and call for the Government of Canada’s support. As the 2017 celebrations are approaching rapidly, time is of the essence.

Click here to send a letter today and send Project Naval Distinction to as many friends, family members and social media contacts as you can!

Sincerely,

The Project Naval Distinction Team