Royal Canadian Navy vs. Canadian Navy

- December 1st, 2010

QMI Agency/Althia Raj

Senators on the National Security and Defence committee agree on one thing: Canada’s naval forces should no longer be called “Maritime Command.”

But they can’t agree on whether the military should be named “Canadian Navy” as Liberal Sen. Bill Rompkey suggests.

Or as Liberal Sen. Joseph Day and a handful of Tories — Sen. Don Plett (pictured above) and Sen. Fabian Manning want, renamed the “Royal Canadian Navy.”

The committee wrapped up its meetings on the topic Monday night. Sen. Plett presented a petition with 5,103 signatures in support of R.C.N.

The clerk was asked to seek advice on whether the Queen would have to approve the name change. Royal Expert Christopher McCreery said a request would not be needed.

30 November 2010

Mr. Kevin Pittman
Clerk of the Standing Committee on National Security and Defence
The Senate of Canada

Dear Mr. Pitman;

I have followed with interest the deliberations of the Committee in relation to the possibility of altering the name of Maritime Command to either Canadian Navy or Royal Canadian Navy.

When King George V granted the Royal designation to the Naval Service of Canada in August 1911, the term “Royal Canadian Navy” came into use. We do not know the exact date that the King granted the designation; however the authority for the term was set out in a letter dated 16 August 1911 addressed to the Governor General. The letter explained;

His Majesty having been graciously pleased to authorize that the Canadian Naval Forces shall be designated ‘the Royal Canadian Navy’, this is the title to be officially adopted.

This message was forwarded to Prime Minister Sir Wilfid Laurier by the Governor General on 29 August 1911 and it was then published on page 1819 of the Canada Gazette dated 11 November 1911.

The granting of Royal designations continues to be an element of the Royal Prerogative within the Sovereign’s personal discretion. The granting of a Royal designation does not expire, rather it is an honour granted to organizations and institutions at the pleasure of the Sovereign.

An example that Royal designations do not expire, providing the parent organization continues to exist in some form, can be found in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. When established in 1873 the Force was known as the North West Mounted Police. In recognition of the important role that the NWMP played in the development of the Canadian west the Force was granted the designation Royal in 1904 and became the “Royal North West Mounted Police.” In 1920 the RNWMP was merged with the Dominion Police to create the “Royal Canadian Mounted Police.” Because the parent organization – the RNWMP – had been granted the Royal designation in 1904 there was no requirement to seek the Sovereign’s permission to continue using the Royal designation, even though the new organizational name was in a slightly reworked form.


There are also examples of Royal designations being revoked or ceasing to exist. This was true in the case of the Royal Canadian Humane Association, which was granted the designation Royal by Queen Victoria in 1894. The organization wound up operations in early 2001 and ceased to exist in February 2001. The organization was subsequently re-established in 2002 and on 23 April 2003 the Queen granted permission for the designation “Royal” to be used once again.

Had the Royal Canadian Navy been abolished or gone bankrupt it would be necessary to seek the Queen’s permission for the restoration of the Royal designation. However, this is clearly not the case. With the advent of unification in 1968 the three services of the Canadian Armed Forces (what is today commonly referred to as the Canadian Forces), namely the Royal Canadian Navy, Canadian Army and Royal Canadian Air Force, were merged into one service. The pre-1968 designations were not abolished but merely overlaid with a new organizational structure at the direction of the Minister of National Defence. To return the designation “Royal Canadian Navy” to use, all that would be required would be an organizational order signed by the Minister of National Defence.

Seeking the Queen’s consent for the use of the Royal designation and term “Royal Canadian Navy” would not be necessary as the designation “Royal Canadian Navy” continues to live on in the permission granted by her grandfather in 1911. As a courtesy, were the term “Royal Canadian Navy” to return to common usage, it would be appropriate for the Government of Canada to inform Her Majesty of this alteration in the designation of part of Her Majesty’s Canadian Forces. This would be done through a letter from the Governor General to the Queen.

Please to not hesitate to contact me if you or the Committee have any further questions.

With all kind regards,

Christopher McCreery

Categories: Senate

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  1. I had the honour of presenting Senator Plett with our 384 page petition, Althia. Glad to see the good Senator is all smiles!

    Thank you for the wonderful post!

  2. J. Coates says:

    While this certainly has sentimental value, it just doesn’t fit into my Canada.

    My father served in the then RCAF until he retired in 1967. I remember as part of a mob of elementary school students being paraded out for the lowering of the Red Ensign and the raising of our new national flag. I experienced my first feeling of national pride and I was only eight years old.

    We are not a colony and should behave like a free, independent country. Canadian Navy works just fine for me.

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