Comment and Articles

As an advocate of discussion and debate of Canadian defence and foreign policy, RUSI Vancouver will share opinions and observations from academia, the media, and respected historians.

For now, the category is not available for feedback to the website on published topics.

May 10

Yes, it's 74 years since V-E Day--Victory in Europe, as most will recall, when the war against Germany came to an end. Veterans Affairs Canada celebrated the event by publishing a video that can be seen here. Unfortunately the folks who put the video together couldn't tell the difference between Canadian troops and enemy soldiers.

Quite frankly, I think the minister should accept responsibility for his part in this--he appeared in the video--and resign. And the department should clean house of employees or contractors capable of such careless work. No wonder our veterans have difficulties with the bureaucracy.

May 5

Sixty-nine years ago Kim Il Sung led North Korea. Kim had spent World War II outside his country as a member of the Soviet army. Following the war, and with the sponsorship of his Russian masters, he returned to Korea with the rank of major in the Red Army, eventually taking charge of North Korea, that is, all of the Korean Peninsula north of the 38th parallel.

In South Korea the government was led by Syngman Rhee, a man who had lived much of his life in the United States. He was autocratic and had been uncooperative with UN efforts to promote democratic reforms.

The Korea-wide free elections that the World War II allies hoped would lead to unification were never held, with the result that the two Koreas – North and South – Russian-influenced and US-leaning – followed ever-more divergent paths.

In the spring of 1950 the North had a population of nine million, contrasted to the South’s 21 million. North Korea, however, had a clear preponderance of military forces. Their army outnumbered that of the South and included thousands of veterans of the Red Army and the Red Chinese Army. In addition they featured modern tanks, aircraft, and weapons provided by the Russians.

Guerrilla warfare raged in the south, with irregular communist fighters taking on the beleaguered Republic of Korea troops. The US’s 500-man KMAG—Korean Military Assistance Group—were probably more concerned about the upcoming baseball season back home than they were with keeping an eye on the north.

The stage was set for a surprise. Kim mustered his troops for a bid to amalgamate North and South by force.

Matt Gurney: Nine years. Two elections. And still no new fighter jets for Canada

We're really good at deferring and rebooting. It's the buying desperately needed military hardware part where Canada comes up short

By Matt Gurney
April 18, 2019

The fuselage of a CF-18 fighter jet shows in September 2006 how many bombs it deployed during the Bosnian war.    Peter J. Thompson / National Post

How many governments does it take to buy a fighter plane? This sounds like the start of a mediocre joke. In Canada, it’s a sincere question.

With only months left in their mandate, the Liberals have announced that the latest attempt to replace our elderly CF-18 jets will begin next month. The CF-18s, which (like me!) date back to the early 1980s, are in desperate need of replacement. This was known to be an issue many years ago. The planes underwent major upgrades in the first years of the 21st century, which were intended to extend their useful service life all the way to somewhere around 2017 — maybe 2020 at the very latest. Astute readers will note that it is, in fact, already 2019. Not only are we still flying the CF-18, we’re buying used Australian F-18s of a similar vintage, to help restore some bulk to a CF-18 fleet whittled down by gradual attrition. (The Australians, for their part, don’t need the old jets because they’ve acquired new ones. It’s not impossible.)

The Australians … have acquired new ones. It's not impossible.

Canada had a plan to replace the jets by now, or at least to have the effort well underway. In 2010, the Harper Tories announced that Canada would purchase 65 F-35 stealth fighters. The announcement was instantly controversial due to the high cost and the sole-source nature of the acquisition, and ultimately went nowhere. It was an election issue in 2011, but despite winning a majority, the Tories didn’t proceed with the purchase and twiddled their thumbs for their entire mandate. It was an election issue again in 2015, with the Liberals promising to not purchase the F-35 and to hold an open and fair competition to select the CF-18 replacement. It seemed not to occur to them that these two promises were in conflict.

A CF-18 Hornet aircraft sits on the tarmac waiting for its next mission during Operation IMPACT in Kuwait on
February 1, 2015.   Canadian Forces Combat Camera, DND

It didn’t seem to bother voters much — the Liberals won a majority. They also then spent the next 3.5 years accomplishing the square root of zero, presumably because they couldn’t quite figure out how to hold a fair and open competition where one of the primary candidates was already excluded. Almost the entire Liberal mandate has essentially been them ragging the puck, no doubt in the hopes that Canadians will forget about the promises they made back in 2015. In that light, the billion-plus dollars the Parliamentary Budget Officer says we’re spending on the used Aussie jets is essentially a nine-figure punt into the next mandate.

Nine years. Two elections. Two parties in power with majorities. An identified need for new fighter jets. And absolutely nothing to show for it beyond a plan to solicit bids, none of which are likely to be chosen before the fall election. Not that there’s a guarantee that the party in power then won’t just reboot the entire process again, or defer it to some later mandate, if political or economic forces make that a more palatable option. We’re really good at that part — the deferring and the rebooting. It’s the actually buying desperately needed military hardware part where Canada comes up short.

A frame grab from video released on Thursday, November 13, 2014 hows a laser-guided bomb released by a Canadian CF-18 fighter jet destroying an Islamic State target about 200 kilometres north of Baghdad.

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about this (and I have the depressing sense it probably won’t be the last, either). So I know how this goes. Readers will soon be demanding to know why Canada needs fighter jets at all, or why we don’t just go buy a fleet of drones. Well, to answer the second question first, we’re not exactly world-beaters when it comes to acquiring drones, either, and Canada’s procurement dysfunction is not limited to planes. We’re bad at it in general. Drones are improving quickly, but aren’t ready to replace fighters yet … and even if they were, we’d screw up that procurement, too.

Canada's procurement dysfunction is not limited to planes.
We're bad at it in general.

But it’s the first question that’s more interesting. Canada’s jet fleet is, in fact, very busy. It always has been. An effective fighter force is not optional unless we’re prepared to formally and officially abandon a series of our international obligations.

We need jets for our own self-defence, of course. Canada, as a massive country, has an equally massive volume of airspace to patrol, including vast approaches from the west, north and east. We are committed to continental defence in co-operation with the United States via Norad; Canadian jets are sometimes assigned missions to protect U.S. sovereignty. We need to be able to deliver on those commitments. Canada is also, of course, a member of NATO, and has been committing jets to air patrol missions in Europe, keeping an eye on increasingly provocative Russian air force flights. And there’s the missions that crop up from time to time: the campaign against Libya in 2011, for instance, or the more recent strikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Maintainers with the Canadian Air Task Force Lithuania wait for pilots to disembark their CF-18s during Operation REASSURANCE on August 26, 2014.   Cpl Kenneth Galbraith /Combat Camera

These are the jobs we expect our air force to be able to do, with minimal notice and, potentially, all at the same time. This is what our government has signed up for, and no government, Conservative or Liberal, wants to officially back away from these commitments.

But it’s clear that neither party has really made them in good faith. Commitment requires capability. We’re all about promising to be there when our allies need us, not so much about actually being able to meaningfully show up when called. Maybe that’ll change after the next election — the third thus far in this long CF-18 replacement saga. But that doesn’t seem a good bet, does it?

MPs say Canadian military needs external review, regulation

By Janice Dickson
Globe & Mail, Published April 9, 2019


A parliamentary committee formed to address national security concerns is calling on the federal government to bring in greater scrutiny to the military’s intelligence-gathering activities.

In its first annual report, released Tuesday, the committee outlines a number of national security threats facing the country and questions why the Department of National Defence (DND) and the Canadian Armed Forces have not had to undergo any independent reviews.

The report says that the intelligence-gathering functions in the DND and the Forces are largely unknown to Canadians and an external review of their intelligence program has never been conducted. This is despite the fact that it is among the largest programs of the Canadian security and intelligence agencies and is expected to grow.

“The committee believes that independent, external review of security and intelligence activities is a foundational part of improving public confidence and trust in the activities of security and intelligence agencies,” the report says.

A national-security watchdog is calling for stricter controls on the Canadian military’s spying. In a report Tuesday (April 9, 2019) the national-security committee of parliamentarians says National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces have one of the largest intelligence programs in Canada, yet these operations get little outside scrutiny. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan responded saying he will look closely at the recommendations.

The DND and the Forces, the report says, can carry out intelligence activities similar to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the Communications Security Establishment or the RCMP, but those agencies are governed by legislative authority that the military is not subjected to.

The Defence Minister told reporters the government needs to make sure that any changes allow for “flexibility within our system” so the Forces are protected and can also be effective. “We also have to take a look at the current processes that are in place plus we also have to take a look at the operational needs of the Canadian Armed Forces because our defence intelligence is there to make sure that our Canadian soldiers stay safe on operations.”

Liberal MP and chair of the committee David McGuinty said independent review of the DND and the Forces’ intelligence activities “will strengthen accountability over its operations. ”Mr. McGuinty also said the committee learned that Canadians know very little of the country’s security mechanisms, saying they are “often in the dark.”

National security and defence experts welcomed the report, calling it the first of its kind and agreeing that the DND should be covered by legislative authority.

Michel Drapeau, a lawyer and professor who specializes in military law, said the report raises awareness of threats and a “glaring point is lack of accountability” over the DND’s intelligence. Mr. Drapeau said he believes the DND needs to operate within a legislative framework. He also said that just because MPs are now suggesting the idea of legal authority to govern the intelligence-gathering activities of the DND and the Forces, does not mean the military is acting outside the law.

Stephanie Carvin, an associate professor at Carleton University and former national security analyst, said the committee is really questioning when the DND is allowed to engage in defence and intelligence activities and what actually permits it.

Ms. Carvin also said that the report is a step in the right direction because Canada was one of the few Western countries not to have any legislative review of its intelligence apparatus. “It really made us stand out so we’re slowly playing catch up … and this is one of those ways, the fact that we’re modernizing our intelligence architecture.”

The report also named Russia and China as “among a handful of states” that conduct espionage and exert influence in Canada.

March 29

On March 29, 1918 the Canadian Cavalry Brigade was bivouacked on the west bank of the Noye River near Guyencourt in northern France. It had been eight days since the enemy attacked and broke through the French and British lines on a 40-mile-wide front. During that time the brigade had fought numerous running battles. Little did they know that the next day would be their defining moment in what became known as the Great War.

First at the walk and then at the gallop the brigade followed Seely through the village of Castel, across the Avre River, and up the ridge to the northwest corner of Moreuil Wood. All three regiments, the Dragoons, the Strathcona’s, and the Fort Garrys would see ferocious action that day. The most celebrated event was the ultimately disastrous charge of the Strathcona’s C Squadron when Gordon Flowerdew, VC, led his men against a German force who, contrary to expectations, were not caught off guard. Flowerdew and many of his men paid the ultimate price, but the spirit of their action lives on.

For some photos taken during last year’s 100th anniversary of the battle—featuring descendants of soldiers who were at Moreuil Wood during those brutal days—click here.

February 14

The Navy has been much in the news lately: contracts for the Canadian Surface Combatant signed; future RCN replenishment ships to leapfrog the construction queue; and a submarine life extension program.

But here are three items that give a disturbing or ironic picture, depending on your viewpoint.

1. Naval Replenishment Unit Asterix and frigate HMCS Regina are off to the west. They’ll take part in exercises in the Asia-Pacific region, and later move to the Middle East on operational duty. Asterix is the vessel converted for naval requirements in the Davie Shipyard in Quebec, much to the annoyance of Irving Shipyards in Halifax. Irving, and it seemed the government, were put out because the defeated Conservative government had authorized the Asterix job in the first place. In spite of that, Asterix has performed in exemplary fashion. And—wonder of wonders, in the world of government projects—was built "on budget and on time.”

2. Vice Admiral Mark Norman, who was then Vice Chief of Defence Staff, is charged with leaking secret cabinet documents. Apparently the documents, if he leaked them, related to alleged Irving moves to stop the conversion of Asterix. We don’t know what the truth of the matter is, but his defence team is seeking production of Canadian Forces documents related to the Norman matter. Apparently high-level government conferences dealing with the issue resulted in no notes or memos of any sort being produced. And the Chief of Defence Staff, Norman’s former boss, is embarrassed on the witness stand because the Forces are having trouble finding documents related to the case.

3. Mark Norman, in spite of doing whatever he did in the service of Canada and the Navy, is denied government funding for his defence. Funding that is routine for civil servants charged with offenses. As a result 2,000 individuals have contributed more than $280,000 to a GoFundMe account. The current goal of the fund is $500,000. He’ll need every penny of that, and probably more, before the government is finished with him.






December 2018

Dear RUSI Members,

On behalf of the Executive and Board of Directors of RUSI Vancouver I extend hearty Season’s Greetings and every good wish for a healthy and fulfilling New Year!

New RUSI Badge

We can now announce the new, long-awaited, Royal United Services Institute Vancouver Society badge recently approved by the Chief Herald of Canada. The simplified design, shown above, is based on the previous RUSI emblem. It shows crossed swords representing the Army, the wings the RCAF, the anchor the RCN, the mural crown emblem of civic authority, the red background emblematic of the RCMP. Royal designation was given the Institute by Her Majesty the Queen in 1989.

The Latin phrase meaning “Work for peace, prepare for war’” conveys RUSI’s mandate for research, education and advocacy on defence issues. The concept originated with Christopher Mackie and Bruce Patterson, the Deputy Chief Herald of Canada. The new badge will be available, along with a new lapel pin, early in the new year. Members will be advised on the cost and availability of the badge when supplies are received from the manufacturer.

New Membership Secretary

We’re pleased to advise that Heather Garrison has agreed to chair the Membership Committee effective January 1, replacing Bob Mugford. Bob will continue as Secretary and as Editor of the RUSI Newsletter for which we’re very grateful. He has been doing ’triple duty’ on these key jobs for several years; commitments that are highly appreciated by everyone. Heather Garrison has a range of experience managing not-for-profit memberships and is ready to volunteer her skills for RUSI Vancouver.

Membership Renewal

Please renew your RUSI membership without delay. Send your annual dues of $50.00 by cheque to: RUSI Vancouver, Bessborough Armoury, 2025 West 11th Avenue, Vancouver, BC V6J 2C7. Or, hand the cheque (or cash) to a member of the Executive at any Wednesday lunch in the 15Fd Officer’s Mess. Lunches resume on January 9, 2019. If your postal or e-mail address, or phone/mobile numbers have changed, please advise Heather Garrison at or at 604 737 7088.

Looking Ahead

The RUSI Speaker Series will continue in the new year. The first series of lectures took place this past fall on Wednesday’s from 5:00 to 7:00 pm. We thank the 15Fd (RCA) Officer’s Mess for its cooperation. The next series will again be held in the Mess from February through April 2019. Timing will remain the same while dates, topics and speakers will be announced early in the new year. Check for this information and other events and activities that are being considered by RUSI Vancouver for 2019 for which members will be invited to be involved and encouraged to attend.

Cam Cathcart, President
Royal United Services Institute Vancouver Society

On Huawei and 5G, Canada must unapologetically pursue our national interest

Contributed to The Globe and Mail - Updated December 6, 2018


Richard Fadden is a former national security adviser to the Prime Minister;
Brian Lee Crowley is the managing director of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute.

On Nov. 28, New Zealand joined Australia and the United States in banning Chinese telecom giant Huawei from participating in the next-generation mobile data networks. One of New Zealand’s largest telecommunications networks had proposed using Huawei’s equipment in its 5G networks, but the government rejected it on the grounds that it posed “significant national security risks.”

This decision has now placed Canada in the uncomfortable position of being a minority among its partners in the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing community. While the United Kingdom has not yet formally banned Huawei, Britain’s main telecom company, BT Group Plc, has announced they will not use Huawei 5G equipment. Now Washington has begun a campaign to dissuade its allies from doing 5G business with Huawei on security grounds.

There are plenty of reasons why intelligence professionals are alarmed by Huawei’s involvement in our 5G networks.

When we hear the name Huawei, the company wants us to picture slick smartphones and a normal telecommunications firm endowed with what its advertising calls a “higher intelligence.”

Yet, it is not a normal telecom company. Founded by a former officer of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), Huawei is extremely close to the upper echelons of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Indeed, Huawei operates in what the PRC calls a strategic sector, a core of their domestic security interests. The company supplies the PLA itself and is officially referred to as a national champion.

China has a long history of conducting extensive cyberespionage operations against the West. Canada is not immune: There is evidence of the Chinese hacking Nortel(before its demise in 2009), the National Research Council and the potash industry. Ottawa has experienced breaches in energy, natural resources and the environment, and China is widely thought to be the culprit.

The close relationship between Huawei and a Chinese government with a history of cyberespionage should be worrisome. Add the fact that China’s 2017 National Intelligence Law gives Beijing the power to compel Huawei’s support for its intelligence work, and the red flags become too numerous to ignore.

Rather than a “higher intelligence,” a better catchphrase for Huawei might be a “covert intelligence” – one that is neither innocent nor friendly to the West.

Britain has not yet banned Huawei, but they too are increasingly wary.

For instance, the U.K.’s Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre admits the equipment it has tested might not match what Huawei uses, concluding that it can no longer provide “long-term technical assurance … around Huawei.” Yet Ottawa relies on the exact kind of equipment testing to support its claim that Huawei poses no national security threat.

Huawei already has extensive relationships with Canadian institutions of higher learning, including a promised $50-million to 13 universities to develop 5G technology. Not only would Canada be reliant, then, on Huawei software and hardware for its next generation of wireless communications technology, but Huawei may well end up owning the patents of 5G technologies that arise from these research partnerships.

Curiously, Ottawa refuses to allow Huawei to bid on federal contracts, a strange position for a government that seems relatively sanguine about the Chinese giant’s presence in the development of a wireless network that will soon transmit our most sensitive information.

It is not too late for Canada to reject the firm’s participation in 5G. Ottawa is currently conducting a security review designed to analyze cyberthreats from companies just like Huawei. It is difficult to see how such a review could conclude that Huawei’s support in 5G doesn’t pose a serious and unacceptable security risk.

We have no reason to doubt the expertise and good faith of Canada’s cyberdefenders, but – and it’s a big but – they can’t know what they don’t know, and that fact alone involves considerable risk. Allowing Huawei access to our 5G network means we are giving our cyberadversaries the means to learn how to defeat our defences. And once they have done so, it is too late.

Denying Huawei participation in our 5G network is not a rejection of engagement with China. Rather, it is doing exactly what China is doing – unapologetically and energetically pursuing our national interest. Like many Western countries, we are often bedazzled by China’s economic potential and therefore fail to ensure our national interests aren’t sacrificed in the pursuit of access to Chinese markets.

These two objectives must go hand in glove. A fruitful relationship requires that we gain China’s respect. The indispensable precondition of that respect is that we assert and protect our national interests – and those of our allies – with vigour and clarity.

The following comment on Canada’s military procurement process and call for political cohesion on the issue is provided by Col (Ret’d) Patrick M. Dennis, OMM, CD. Col Dennis is author of ‘Reluctant Warriors’ and an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at Wilfred Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario. For related comment see the article (below) by John Ivison, reprinted from the National Post of November 30, 2018. The opinions expressed in the following comment are those of Mr. Dennis.

The article below (from Air Force Magazine) puts the F-35 delivery process in focus. A decade ago Canada needed to make some smart decisions. Successive governments failed to do so and have relegated the RCAF to a support role. These aircraft are now at least five years away, and more likely seven. At that point we will be like the Baltic countries, or maybe some of the South American republics.

But let's be honest, despite successful, albeit very painful, procurement efforts in all three services, the lack of a bi-partisan defence decision-making process has steadily eroded the overall capabilities of the Canadian Forces for half a century now. Think back to the White Paper in 1987 when we were going to buy 10-12 nuclear submarines.

Credible defence and deterrence is not cheap. But our frugality is an international embarrassment. And false pride in an underfunded, underequipped and undermanned institution is a key part of the problem. Our leaders continue to boast about doing more with less, when we all know that to be false. And just because there are serious "plans" to procure new kit should not obscure the fact that all of it is late to need, sometimes by nearly three decades in the case of the Sea King.

What to do? Politically, all parties need to abandon divisive rhetoric on this file and embrace an entirely new requirements approval and procurement process, one that is committed to expeditiously providing the services, equipment and personnel needed carry out national defence and security objectives. Militarily, it is time to separate NDHQ from CFHQ, with all that this entails. Integrating the two HQs has only served to reduce the military to a shell of its former self, thus preventing the Government from effectively implementing national defence objectives.

Some will argue that such an approach is unaffordable. But it IS affordable. Canadians need to make some tough decisions, though, and I am not talking about reducing transfer payments or health care. But first we have to agree that defence spending is not a luxury or an afterthought but is a fundamental pre-requisite to meeting all other national needs, as opposed to wants. Absent such consensus, I fear the worst. But I have been wrong before.

Patrick M. Dennis, Colonel (Ret’d) OMM, CD

Australia Receives First Two In-Country F-35s

Amy McCullough
Reprinted from Air Force (US) Magazine of December 11, 2018


Australia on Sunday, December 10, 2018, received its first two F-35 strike fighters to be based in country at Royal Australian Air Force Williamtown. Australia already has received 10 of the fifth-generation fighters, but the other aircraft are assigned to Luke AFB, Arizona, as part of the international cooperative F-35 training operations there, according to a Lockheed Martin release.

With the delivery, Australia is now the seventh country to locally base F-35s, joining the United States, United Kingdom, Italy, Norway, Israel, and Japan. “Australia plays a significant role in the program with the suite of local industrial technology and know-how behind the hundreds of F-35s flying today, as well as the thousands of F-35s that will be produced in the future,” said Chief Executive of Lockheed Martin Australia Vince Di Pietro.

More than 340 F-35s are now operating from 16 bases across the globe, including Williamtown. The total fleet has accumulated more than 170,000 flight hours, and more than 700 pilots and 6,500 maintainers have been training, according to Lockheed.

In 2010, several members of the Naval Officers Association of BC (NOABC) decided to salute the role of BC’s shipyards during World War Two. The project eventually transitioned into a monument to include all workers in the BC shipbuilding industry. The following article in the July-August issue of BC Shipping News by RUSI President Cam Cathcart, outlines the eight year journey of the project, with a few nautical miles left before it’s completed.

...why isn’t there something tangible on the Vancouver waterfront to salute
the legacy of B.C.’s proud and illustrious shipbuilding industry?

Honouring B.C.’s legendary shipbuilding industry

by Cameron Cathcart

Curious how projects get started. Many have a definite purpose. Others, the result of a dream. The shipbuilding monument project began with a question: why isn’t there something tangible on the Vancouver waterfront to salute the legacy of B.C.’s proud and illustrious shipbuilding industry? That question got a few people thinking in 2010.

The Metro Vancouver Naval Monument Society was formed, and the concept of a memorial began to take shape. The idea was to position a statue of a Second World War shipyard worker on the North Vancouver waterfront. But, that hectic period of non-stop shipbuilding also included thousands of women, along with navy personnel acting as advisors. It was clear that all three had to be represented in a shipbuilding monument. The next step was to engage a sculptor.

The artist chosen was Norm Williams, who had recently completed the monument to B.C.’s fishing industry and its workers situated outside the old Steveston Cannery, now the Gulf of Georgia National Historic Site in Richmond, B.C. His first task was to develop a maquette, or model, showing the three statues in various poses within the parameters of a single monument. Mr. Williams has since created the Roger Neilson and Pat Quinn statues located at Rogers Arena in Vancouver.

Unfortunately, the initial flurry of excitement for a shipbuilding monument began to wane at this time and for several years the project suffered an overall lack of enthusiasm. That changed in 2017 when the Naval Officer’s Association of BC (NOABC) announced plans to mark its 100th anniversary at a fall 2019 conference in North Vancouver. This sparked renewed interest by the Society and the monument project was revived in earnest.

By now, project costs had increased substantially and it was obvious the final price for the shipbuilding monument would be much higher than originally contemplated back in 2010. Also, urban renewal had changed the old Burrard Dry Dock site at the North Vancouver waterfront with the area that now includes an art gallery, a new hotel, a residential complex, public market, restaurants, boardwalk and a public pier.

The Society now had to re-engage with the City of North Vancouver to determine where the monument could be located on the revitalized waterfront. Meanwhile, the North Vancouver Arts Advisory Committee, along with the North Vancouver Museum and Archives, were consulted for artistic design and historical accuracy of the sculpture components. These were approved, and the City endorsed the project, agreeing that the monument be located east of the new pier on the North Vancouver waterfront boardwalk.

The building of vessels on the British Columbia coast has a long history. Well before European contact, coastal Indigenous people built large, sea-going dugout canoes for fishing, whaling, transportation and war. The first ship built on the B.C. coast by Europeans was at Friendly Cove, now Yuquot, in Nookta Sound in the early 1790s.

As European settlement took hold in the late 1800s, various types of vessels were built by B.C. shipbuilders over the years such as deep-sea sailing ships, paddle wheelers, lake ferries, tugs, fish boats and the occasional pleasure craft. It wasn’t until after the Second World War that U.K.-built passenger ships, used for West Coast service, began to be phased out and replaced mainly by vessels built in B.C. shipyards.

For most of the 20th century, the North Vancouver waterfront housed the largest shipyard in western Canada, with more than 450 ships launched from the site throughout this period. Opened in 1906 as Wallace Shipyard and re-named Burrard Dry Dock in 1921, tugs and barges for the forest industry, navy vessels, ferries, small cargo ships and icebreakers were launched from this historic location including the St. Roch, the RCMP schooner that achieved fame by traversing the Arctic in both directions in the 1940s.

The busiest and most record-setting activity on the North Vancouver waterfront occurred during the Second World War. Burrard Dry Dock, along with neighbouring North Van Ship Repairs, built close to 250 of Canada’s wartime Victory ships and 50 naval vessels, establishing a reputation for high standards of workmanship. Between 1939 and 1945, more than 14,000 workers were employed in round the clock shifts at Burrard, including 1,000 women, to feed the war effort. The B.C. shipyard was the first in Canada to hire women during the war. They filled the gap while men went to war with jobs ranging from store-keeping to welding.

When the war ended in 1945, shipbuilding in B.C. dropped dramatically and thousands of workers were let go, including all the women hired during the war. But, new contracts slowly picked up as the post-war economy began to surge. These included modern tugs, self-loading log barges, cargo ships, coastal tankers, patrol boats, state of the art icebreakers, arctic oil exploration ships and passenger and railcar ferries. In the 1950s the Royal Canadian Navy also began to modernize its fleet with new destroyers, several of which were built in B.C. shipyards.

Today, two replenishment ships have been ordered by the Royal Canadian Navy, along with a polar icebreaker for the Canadian Coast Guard. All three vessels are at the final design stage at Seaspan Shipyards in North Vancouver, from which the first of three fisheries research vessels were recently launched. Along with building new ships, for several years cruise ship, ferry and navy vessel repair and upgrading work have been consistent and reliable activities for British Columbia’s shipyards.

The shipbuilding monument needs $350,000 to be completed and installed on the North Vancouver waterfront by October, 2019. To meet this challenge the Metro Vancouver Naval Monument Society has launched an appeal for contributions at eight levels that reflect the type of ships built by B.C.’s shipbuilders, ranging from Minesweeper to Victory Ship to Naval Supply Ship, to mention just three.

The monument will consist of three bronze statues that show a male worker using a torch to bend pipes, a female worker taking a break, while a naval petty officer unrolls ship plans. It is designed to engage people, with sculptures positioned at ground level on the walkway east of the North Vancouver waterfront pier.

The shipbuilding monument will salute the legendary British Columbia shipbuilding industry and its workers, and for its support of the Royal Canadian Navy and the Canadian Merchant Marine during the Second World War.

The project began with a question: why is there no tangible recognition of British Columbia’s proud and illustrious history of shipbuilding?

The answer is the shipbuilding monument, now ready to be launched.

World War I from the journal of Captain Fred G. Coxen RFA (Royal Field Artillery)

From the PREFACE:

"My purpose for writing this book was to honor my grandfather by telling his story. In addition I wanted to impart to the reader the experiences, as well as the conditions of war, and what it was like trying to survive each day.

"The story is based on the World War 1 journal written by Captain Frederick G. Coxen, who served in the Royal Field Artillery (RFA) and the Royal Air Force (RAF) from 1905 to 1919."

Download the entire book (158 pages) HERE.


RUSI Vancouver members gather for lunch on Wednesdays at 12:00 Noon at the Officers' Mess of the 15th Field Regiment (RCA) located in the Bessborough Armouries, 2025 West 11th Avenue, Vancouver, BC.