HALIFAX — The return of the “royal” moniker Tuesday to the air and maritime divisions of the Canadian Forces drew pride from veterans recalling past glory but concerns from historians who say it could stir anger in Quebec.
The Maritime and Air Commands are again respectively the Royal Canadian Navy and Royal Canadian Air Force, Defence Minister Peter MacKay announced Tuesday in a dockside ceremony attended by veterans who’ve spent decades lobbying for the name change.
The use of “royal” has traditionally been restricted to individual regiments.
“It’s a way of reconnecting today’s men and women in uniform with the proud history and traditions that they carry with them,” MacKay said.
The Land Force Command is now the Canadian Army.
Navy veteran Gaylord Kingston, 76, praised the Conservative government for implementing the change.
“For veterans it’s a return to honour,” he said. “This is a return to the past and yet brand new to us.”
But navy historian David Zimmerman said he’s worried the return of monarchist symbols may heighten English-French divisions in the country.
“In the province of Quebec, not many people like to think of the royal connection and there’s a lot of French Canadians in the navy as well,” he said in an interview.
Within hours of the announcement, francophone commentary was circulating on social media websites, much of it making fun of the name change.
“Now we have royally defective and rusty submarines,” tweeted Sebastien Robert, who says he is a member of a sovereigntist party in Quebec.
Pierre Anctil, a professor of history at the University of Ottawa, said Tuesday’s announcement marks a surprising shift of Canadian symbols.
“It’s a new policy of defining Canadian nationalism,” he said from his home in Montreal.
“Francophones will find it difficult to swallow. Reference to the Queen and the British empire isn’t likely to please francophones.”