Canada’s Navy was officially established on May 4, 1910. Since then, around a quarter of a million men and women have served in the Navy and the country has sent nearly a thousand ships to sea. Sailors have come from every province and territory, and ships have ranged in size from in-harbour vessels the length of two to three cars to aircraft carriers longer than 17 school buses.
Although Canada is bordered by three oceans, most Canadians live inland, and some have never been to the sea. Yet the Canadian Navy has sailed all seven seas and played a part in both World Wars, the Korean War, the Gulf War and a multitude of United Nations and humanitarian aid missions to countries such as Haiti and East Timor. Beyond serving their country, joining the Navy has long been a way for sailors to train throughout Canada, experience the world beyond and finance their education.
More than half the world’s countries have navies, including landlocked nations such as Bolivia and Serbia, ranging in size from just a few ships to hundreds. The Canadian Navy was launched with only a pair of ships and is now one of the world’s pre-eminent medium-power navies. (The power rating is a measure of the number of naval vessels a country has and its willingness to take on far-flung missions.) Canada now has 33 active vessels, along with air support provided by Air Force helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft.
Some people sign up with romantic notions of a sailor’s life: “Those who go down to the sea in ships, those who ply their trade on great waters,” as one version of the Sailor’s Psalm says. Others simply view the sea as another place to work. Regardless, 100 years into the Canadian Navy’s existence, Canadians continue to serve. Centennial commemorations include presentations to approximately 300 communities that have had ships named after them and a new monument on the Ottawa River below Parliament Hill.