RCN prepares to celebrate Canada 150

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Crowsnest - Winter 2017 / February 1, 2017

By Darlene Blakeley

A regatta of tall ships. An international tattoo. Naval boarding party demonstrations. A navy bike ride.

These are just some of the events that will take place as the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) celebrates the 150th anniversary of Confederation this year. Focussing on exciting events from coast to coast, community involvement will be a special part of the festivities.

“The RCN is proud to commemorate Canada’s strong naval heritage with Canadians from all backgrounds as part of this year’s celebrations,” says Vice-Admiral Ron Lloyd, Commander RCN. “As we mark this special year, we remember and honour the bravery of generations of sailors who fought to defend Canadian values at home and abroad.”           

Rendez-vous 2017

A signature event marking celebrations will be Rendez-vous 2017 (RDV 2017), when more than 40 tall ships will be sailing Canadian waters from June 30 until August 20.

Québec City, home of Canada’s Naval Reserve Headquarters, will be the main rallying point on the tour. The tall ship fleet, along with over 3,000 crew members and youth trainees, will be in the Port of Québec for a grand celebration from July 18 to 23. A host of free activities is planned for families and visitors, showcasing local and national culture as well as Canada’s proud maritime heritage.

“RDV 2017 will bring Canadians to cities, towns and villages along the St. Lawrence River and help to promote a greater understanding of these communities and the vital role this iconic Canadian waterway played in the creation and development of our country,” says Lieutenant-Commander Kevin Jutras, Naval Reserve Coordinator for RDV 2017.

The Québec City rallying point is one stop along a transatlantic race of 7,000 nautical miles taking place over the course of five months in 2017. The race starts at the port of Royal Greenwich in Great Britain on April 13 and finishes in the port of Le Havre, France. There will be stops in Portugal, Bermuda, the United States and Canada along the way.

The tall ships are scheduled to stop at 30 different ports in Ontario, Québec and the Maritimes during the tour, giving thousands of Canadians the opportunity to admire the majestic beauty of these cathedrals of the seas.

Canada Day at Canada Place

2017 marks the 10th consecutive year that Joint Task Force Pacific and Maritime Forces Pacific have participated in Canada Day at Canada Place in Vancouver, the largest Canada Day celebration outside the nation’s capital.

This year, a keepsake photo postcard of visitors with Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members will provide a lasting memory, with the wording, “I’m celebrating Canada 150 with the Canadian Forces.”

The CAF Zone will consist of 17 unit displays, a Halifax-class frigate and two Orca Patrol Craft Training ships. A Fun Force Fitness Test will challenge participants to test themselves to see if they have the right stuff for the CAF. A fog-filled tent will allow participants to use a thermal imaging camera to find hidden personnel. Visitors over 19 years of age can try the firearms training simulator.

Live demonstrations will include the rarely seen naval boarding party demonstrations, performed on three custom-painted, stacked sea containers. Visitors will be able to try on a bomb suit and equipment used by the Maritime Tactical Operations Group – the specialized unit designed to manage high-risk threats at sea.

The Canadian Army will provide a selection of vehicles as well as a forward operating base with a “selfie station” for guests. The Royal Canadian Air Force will invite visitors to learn about search and rescue, and airframe maintenance. Overhead, two parachuting SkyHawks will appear to be making their approach over the CAF Zone.

Visitors can attend one of several live performances by the Naden Band of Maritime Forces Pacific, one of which will provide musical support for the live broadcast of a citizenship ceremony, presided over by Rear-Admiral Art McDonald, Commander Joint Task Force Pacific.

Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo

The 2017 Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo (RNSIT), held in Halifax from June 29 to July 6, will also be a signature event in support of the Canada 150 celebrations. Approximately 295 personnel, including 50 cadets, will be employed in support of this year’s event.         

“The RNSIT is a public spectacle which provides the CAF the opportunity to showcase personnel and their specialized skills,” says LCdr Sidney Green, Executive Officer RNSIT. “As this is a multinational event, it also provides the opportunity to build upon already established relationships with not only the community, but with other nations as well.”

This year’s Tattoo will be one of the biggest yet as it celebrates how Canada’s diverse landscape and culture define the nation on its 150th birthday. “From the moment the opening note rings out and until the final note fades, the Tattoo will recognize Canada as the strong nation it is,” says LCdr Green.

The 100th anniversaries of Vimy Ridge and the Halifax Explosion will also be commemorated. From the bravery and courage exhibited by soldiers at the battle of Vimy Ridge to the military personnel and first responders rushing to help after the Halifax Explosion, Canadian history and honour will be on full display.

The RCN will have a strong presence at the Tattoo with the Stadacona and Naval Reserve bands on hand, and will proudly showcase its Maritime Tactical Operations Group. The navy will also compete in the ever popular CAF Obstacle Race. 

Navy Bike Ride

As part of its Canada 150 celebrations in the National Capital Region, the RCN will be hosting the inaugural Navy Bike Ride. It will take place May 20 with the option of doing either a 10km ride or 30km ride around downtown Ottawa and in Gatineau Park. Registration is open to both avid and recreational cyclists of all ages.

“There are many avid cyclists within the navy community, myself included, and I look forward to leading the first-ever Navy Bike Ride through Canada’s Capital Region during our nation’s 150th birthday,” says VAdm Lloyd.

MacKenzie River Run

In the North, the RCN will operate small boats on Great Slave Lake in July. Two boats will potentially circumnavigate Great Slave Lake, while an additional two boats will proceed from Hay River up the MacKenzie River to Tuktoyaktuk.

Using Joint Task Force North's Operation Nunakput, an annual surveillance and presence operation, as a backdrop, the RCN will gain valuable insight into small boat internal water operations and Canadian Ranger cooperation. Sailors will celebrate Canada 150 as modern-day voyageurs of Canada’s internal waters.

These signature events are just a sample of what the RCN has planned for the year, as a host of other events will be held in communities across the country from ships’ visits to maritime galas to participation in the Invictus Games.

“This is an exciting time to be a Canadian and part of the navy,” says VAdm Lloyd. “We have many wonderful activities planned for this special year, and I hope that all Canadians will have the chance to celebrate this milestone alongside members of the RCN.”