The Navy was not always inclusive. Prior to 1943, Black persons were excluded. Canadians of Indigenous origin were also dissuaded from enlisting. But from that date, a strong desire to reconnect with the First Nations became manifest in Canada’s naval service.

The arrival of the Tribal-class destroyers, named after Indigenous communities such as HMC Ships Huron, Haida, or Sioux, was a pretext for bringing the peoples closer together. When HMCS Micmac was launched in 1943, five Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq were the guests of honour of the Halifax shipyard.

However, some would not wait for the change of culture to clear the way for future generations…


George Edward “Ted” Jamieson

Ted Jamieson is seen as a pioneer in Canadian naval history. A member of the Six Nations Reserve, he was a sea cadet when he convinced his instructor to recruit him into the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve in 1939.

He served brilliantly during World War II and the Korean War (1951–1953), where he attained the rank of chief petty officer 1st class, the highest rank for non-commissioned members in the Navy.

Drawing on his naval experience, Ted Jamieson gave back to his home community after his military career, working as a counsellor at the Six Nations Reserve Drug and Alcohol Centre.


A few examples of Indigenous Canadian sailors, left to right;

  1. Ronald “Ron” Lowry (of the Bay of Quinte Band, sailor during the Korean War)

  2. Russ Moses (member of the Six Nations, both his parents are veterans of the World War I, sailor during the Korean War)

  3. George Edward “Ted” Jamieson (member of the Six Nations, Senior Instructor at the Anti-Submarine Torpedo School in Halifax)

  4. William Shead (of the Fisher River Band, Chief Engineer in the RCNVR)


The “Cadillac of Destroyers”: HMCS St. Laurent 205

In 1951, Canada innovated by launching HMCS St. Laurent, the first destroyer entirely designed and built in Canada. The ship had advanced technology and presented such improvements compared to its predecessors that it came to be known as the “Cadillac of Destroyers.”

To mark the occasion, the Navy had a solid silver model of the destroyer made, and presented it to Princess Elizabeth, the future Queen Elizabeth II. Shortly thereafter, she returned the model to Canada, where it became a coveted trophy, presented to the best performing Naval Reserve Division of the year.

The trophy is now part of the collections of the Naval Museum of Québec, where it can be admired to this day.


The late Queen Elizabeth II with the ship’s company of HMCS St. Laurent in Stockholm, Sweden, June 11, 1956.


The Silver Destroyer, currently on display at the Naval Museum of Québec


The Silver Destroyer required 1 100 hours of work from eight silversmiths at the firm of Henry Birks & Sons. Naval Museum of Québec Collection


Legacy and Transformation

The legacy of World War II characterized the Reserve well into the 1970s. The science of convoy organization even became one of the Canadian Naval Reserve’s specific areas of expertise, recognized as such by NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization).

The 1980s were truly a time of transformation. The Naval Presence in Quebec project, the goal of which was to increase the number of francophones in the Canadian Navy, brought on the formation of four new Divisions in the province, each named after a naval hero of New France: Jolliet, Champlain, d’Iberville and Radisson.

At the same time, women were increasing their own part in “manning” the crews. Formerly employed mainly in administration, or in the medical service, women were now seen to be officers of the watch at sea, and to fill operational positions.

The Porte-class ships, named after the gates of the French fortifications of Québec and Louisbourg, were the first in the Royal Canadian Navy to be converted to accommodate women.

“One retired Naval Reserve captain recalls a particularly memorable milestone when skippering a gate vessel in 1978–79. Outbound from Esquimalt late one night, he made his night rounds after having cleared harbour. To his surprise, he found the engine room ‘manned’ completely by women.—Ian Holloway, The Quest for Relevance, 1968–90, in “Citizen Sailors: Chronicles of Canada’s Naval Reserve 1910–2010, ed. Richard H. Gimblett and Michael L. Hadley, p. 103.

In 1989, all military occupations were at long last opened to women, except that of submariner, which finally followed suit in 2001.


Female Reservists from HMCS Griffon. Canadian Forces Fleet School Fonds, Naval Museum of Québec Collection


A Reservist aboard a ship. Canadian Forces Fleet School Fonds, Naval Museum of Québec Collection


The Naval Reserve of today and tomorrow

In spite of its resounding success, not one official mission was entrusted specifically to the Naval Reserve prior to the publication of the White Paper on Defence in 1987. That year, for the very first time, the Naval Reserve was entrusted with exclusive missions within the framework of Canada’s Defence Strategy:


  1. Mine countermeasures

  2. Coastal Defence

  3. Naval Control of Shipping


That meant that, should the Reserve not be able to fulfill these missions, they would simply not be achieved. This new reality drove the building of a new class of ships. These ships were the first to be entirely dedicated to use by Reservists, and are still in service to this day: they are the Kingston-class ships.

The Naval Reserve today numbers over 4 000 members, to which a number of civilians who support their work must be added. Be it asserting Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic, taking part in drug enforcement in the Caribbean, or contributing to international assistance in Africa, Canadian Naval Reservists are deployed around the world. On land, they support their communities with philanthropic activities and by intervening during natural disasters.

With global warming and generalized ice melt, the North is becoming and international issue, and Canada means to play a major role in its resolution.

At this time, new Canadian Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ships are under construction, the ships of the Harry DeWolf class. For the first time, Canadian ships are named after Canadian naval heroes, several of which were Reservists and can be seen on the Centennial Mural.

They are:

  • HMCS Harry DeWolf

  • HMCS Margaret Brooke

  • HMCS Max Bernays

  • HMCS William Hall

  • HMCS Frédérick Rolette

  • HMCS Robert Hampton Gray


History goes on…