Vice-Admiral Art McDonald’s Haul-Down Message

Navy News / January 12, 2021

Shipmates, as I prepare for my Commander Royal Canadian Navy (CRCN) 36 pennant to be hauled down and to turn over the watch to CRCN37, Vice-Admiral (VAdm) Craig Baines, you need know that it has truly been the greatest privilege of my lengthy naval career to be your Admiral. Over the past 18 months, and despite unprecedented challenge and tragedy, you have repeatedly proven yourselves as an impressive lot to command – inspiring, storied, professional, compassionate as well as equal parts warrior, diplomat and mental health professional.

Despite a year of unprecedented challenge and tragedy, you have delivered an enviable depth and breadth of successes alongside partners and allies at home and around the globe as you routinely combat crises – man-made and naturally occurring. For this amazing record, I thank each and every one of you – both military and civilian members of our RCN family, of course, but also your families, and those across the extended naval family (comprising sailors, public servants, unions, contractors, industry partners, veterans and families) – that champion, celebrate and enable us. You are all plank-share owners of our successes – for which you have my eternal gratitude. Bravo Zulu and thank you. As always, I need start there: saluting and thanking you and your families for service and sacrifices.

I hope you and yours are well and keeping healthy in what has been an absolutely unprecedented year – a year in which we not only grappled with COVID complicating every aspect of our work and domestic lives, but also one that tested us – the naval family – like no other in recent years. 2020 saw us experience the most significant naval / naval-air losses in decades via the staggering loss of six shipmates in Freddie’s Stalker 22 and then again when Winnie lost a one of their own just days before arriving home triumphant after an incredibly successful deployment. Indeed we’ll not soon forget 2020 and we shall always remember Matthew C., Matthew P., Abbigail, Maxime, Kevin, Brendan and Duane. We will remember them.

As the watch now changes at the mid-point of the largest peacetime transformation in our history, I remind you that with Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Harry DeWolf we have begun to see our new ships delivered and that our RCN Strategic Plan seems resilient to the pressures and contexts that swirl around us (including COVID). And so, we stand always ready – to help, to lead and to fight whenever and wherever required – while concurrently our institutional focus remains “STEADI” on enduring priorities.

People have always been a top RCN priority. We, the RCN, are equally known for who we are and how we conduct ourselves as much as for the amazing things we do. In addition to making progress under Operation HONOUR, for example, we adopted more gender-inclusive English junior rank designations. Yet woken by the recent and ongoing outcry against racial injustice echoing around the world, including here in Canada, we’ve had cause to reflect on our own shortcomings as an institution. What is clear is that racism, anti-Semitism, misogyny and discrimination exist within our ranks – despite the efforts of many to combat them and as much as it hurts to admit this. We aspire to be a navy in which all are treated with dignity and respect as well as a service that cultivates an inclusive and respectful work environment for all. To these ends, we are undertaking the requisite cultural change, but have more to do. This work is perhaps what excites me most amongst the great things we are doing because in a future security environment in which the human element will be key, as an immigrant nation we have a decisive, comparative advantage if we remain exactly the service that Canadians want to represent them in the world’s darkest corners when principles and values matter.

As a result, at watch turnover, we can have every confidence that under the leadership of VAdm Baines, you - our Royal Canadian Navy - will continue to flourish as our transformation and recapitalization continues apace.

Having been selected to continue our journey together in my next capacity as your Chief of the Defence Staff, I look forward to continuing to be “wind in your sails” on all of this important work and bid you fair winds and following seas.

I stand relieved of the watch as CRCN. Chief Yeoman of Signals, execute signal BB – EX3 – 4 – DESIG CRCN. Haul down my flag.

Long live the Kraken.

Vice-Admiral Art McDonald
Outgoing CRCN