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Saturday, July 3, 2010

100 Years of Our Navy

Vice-Admiral Dean McFadden at The Victory

Invités distingués, mesdames, messieurs. Premièrement je voudrais dire à Paul - je voudrais vous remercier pour vos efforts et les efforts de la Société de promouvoir cette année l'interêt dans les affaires maritimes et certainement l'interêt dans la Marine Canadienne.

In a centennial year, there has been as much opportunity as I've ever had in my life to travel this country, to meet with more Canadians from more walks of life with an interest in what maritime affairs are about, and why this country has - and I'll admit I'm biased - and needs a navy, and it has been an extraordinarily positive and encouraging thing for me.

One of the things I always thought we did well on the international stage was the conduct of what we call coalition operations - how do you get people to co-operate in common cause who come from enormously different backgrounds, with, in some cases, enormously different experiences and heritage, to operate together for a common purpose. We have been doing that in the Canadian Navy for all of the time that I've served. (Someone pointed out to me, I thought somewhat truly, that I've been in the navy now for more than a third of its existence. I hadn't quite looked at it that way before.) But coalition operations, and the ability to build friendships, to make connections, is something that I think Canadians somehow grow up with, it's in the air that we breathe; again I'm biased, but I think we do it better than anyone else on earth. (Applause)

One of the things I didn't realize enough until I had the opportunity to talk to lots of Canadians this year was how much of an interest there was in what we did, but how little, or how poorly a job I think in hindsight we had done to actually get out from behind the fencelines where we have our ships, from the coasts in which we serve, a long way from the majority of Canadians, to actually explain to our own citizens what I think a great many people around the world get to see.

I learned a valuable lesson from one of our young commanding officers, that said to me that he'd just come back from a seven-month deployment in the first year of his commission and in the second year, so he was finishing two years so he could make the call upon the admiral at the end of that time. The guy who is taking his place comes in, he's got a broad grin on his face; the young officer who was leaving, not quite as happy because he was giving up command, but he had talked about how many people had been on board his ship. And in the first year in Canadian operations, he'd had 2,000 Canadians walk onboard the deck of his frigate, and I thought, well that's a pretty good number, until he pointed out to me that in the second year, he'd had 115,000 foreign guests onboard his ship, who knew far more, and had connected far more with our sailors than many Canadians have the opportunity.

So, this centennial year has been one of those times where I think we've been afforded an opportunity to get out and explain who we are, what we do, and I think, as importantly, why we do it. And I have been immensely encouraged and impressed by just how wide that constituency is, and how that connection takes us to places that I couldn't have imagined. And even over the last month, the National Capital Commission in Ottawa, the folks that organized the Tulip Festival, out on the west coast, the Maritime Museum of British Columbia, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, the work of this [Archives and Collections] Society, there is a fundamental understanding, I think, in this country that we are a maritime nation, and that we need to have, I think, some greater understanding of why the oceans are going to play an even greater part of our future, even than they did in the last century in our history.

As Paul had mentioned, the Canadian Navy came of age in war, came of age, I think, probably with a truly professional, independent character in the Second World War of moving convoys across the Atlantic to an island nation that stood alone against tyranny when we were doing that.

We just came back-my wife Eva, she'll be saying I've talked far too long-we just came back from Halifax where we had the International Fleet Review, very much honoured by the presence of Her Majesty to do that review. Two weeks earlier we had done one on the west coast, because a nation like Canada cannot do just one fleet review. We are a nation that has had a history of two great oceans: the Atlantic to the east, the Pacific to the west, and I think in the twenty-first century there will be a third ocean in which we will spend far more time, and that will be the Arctic Ocean to the north.

But as we went through the review of the warships that had gathered, there were two images I must admit that I will take away with me for the rest of my life: how much those warships assembled in Bedford Basin in Halifax reminded so many of what were the convoys that formed in the Second World War, at the real operational birth of the navy; but the second thing was that they were warships today, and they were warships, 29 in total, from nations with whom we have had a long friendship, in peace and war: the United States, the United Kingdom, but also France, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, Brazil, nations with whom we are forming links in the future, and we're doing that consciously because the work that navies do in peacetime is to prevent conflict.

We have to have the capacity in war to prevail, but for the most part, what we do on a daily basis is insure that there is a regulated ocean, upon which commerce flows, and upon which people can go about their lawful business. It's why we're doing counter-piracy missions at the other end of the earth, it's why were doing boarding operations in counter-terrorism missions, it's why we support the coast guard and border services in ensuring that the ocean approaches to Canada are secure, it has been what we've always done, I don't think there will be any dramatic change in our mission in the next century that's ahead of us.

But I believe the oceans will become even more important to humanity. More people are fed from them every year than the year before, and they are under more pressure, not just environmental, not just in resource exploitation, fish stocks being overfished, environmental degradation from accidents, one of which we're seeing continuing to unfold in the Gulf of Mexico; I can't imagine the damage that that would do if it was in the Canadian Arctic, and it is the Canadian Arctic, and will be-(Applause)

Those oceans are becoming more and more important to humanity. There's no country that has benefited more from globalization than ours. There are problems with globalization. I wish there had been real protests at the G8 and G20, as opposed to them being, I think, the democratic process of dissent being smothered by just louts and folks who wanted violence and damage so the voice of those who would say globalization doesn't spread the benefits well enough, that's an argument that I think we need to have, but I don't think there's any chance of reversing it; we are becoming connected to this world in ways, and with numbers of connections, far more than we ever have in the past. That will continue into the future.

Your nation has a record of being able to hold its head up well, in the things that we have done. Your navy, I think, stands on the verge of what will be a substantial renewal (this is not a political speech), but an immense amount of resource is being directed our way to be able to re-craft an operational capability that I think is undeniably a force for good in this world. It's a force that continues to promote relationships so that we prevent conflict, but it's a force that at the end of the day, if conflict is required, will prevail in that conflict.

I have been very honoured to have the chance to meet lots of Canadians in this year of the navy centennial, links with whom I hope my successors' successor will keep up, because we need to connect far more with Canadians so they know what we're about, and I have absolutely no doubt, that I think the more Canadians know about us, the more they'll like, and the more they like, the more support we'll have for what I think is going to be an extraordinarily important place for Canada in this maritime century that's ahead of us.

So Paul again I would say thank you very much. The work, your work, the work of this [Archives and Collections] Society, your interest in coming today to look at it, is a small part, but it's one grain of sand on a beach that we need hundreds and thousands - in fact hundreds of thousands of more connections, because we will be an expensive entity to maintain, but I just happen to think it is an expense and investment this county has no choice but to make, because your navy will be even busier in its second century than it was in the first.

Thanks very much for the work that you're doing. Thank you very much. (Applause)


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