August 25, 2011: On August 16th, the Canadian government reversed a 43 year old decision and restored the “Royal” prefix for the air force and navy. Actually, the decision eliminated the old names (“land forces command”, “air command” and “maritime command”) and brought back the more traditional Canadian Army, Royal Canadian Air Force and Royal Canadian Navy. The army does not get a “royal” prefix because while the air force and navy are historically answerable to the crown, the army answers to parliament. Everyone answers to parliament these days, but historical touches like this are popular.
While the opposition in Canada (the New Democratic Party) protested the change, the 1960s unification of the armed forces was widely unpopular. Ultimately it was seen as a scheme that did achieve some efficiency, but also allowed politicians to loot the military pension systems for other pet projects. But among most Canadians, especially veterans and their families, the loss of the historical names was particularly painful. Subsequent governments have gradually reversed the Euro-style social engineering imposed on the military in the 1960s. This reversal was essential for the Canadian military to be ready for all the real wars and dangerous humanitarian missions they were sent off to deal with.
Some say the recent visit of Prince William and his new wife was the trigger for the change. But, in fact, the visit was just something of a final push for something that was long in demand. Opinion polls showed that most Canadians accepted the change. While Canadian politics leans more to the left than in the United States, the respect for the British royalty (the queen is still the head-of-state in Canada) has never declined. Moreover, the 1968 decision did not remove the “royal” prefix from many smaller units, if only because those outfits had some very devoted veterans and fans, who knew how to start a media storm if something they held dear was threatened. So the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, the Royal Canadian Regiment, the Royal New Brunswick Regiment, the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, the Royal 22nd Regiment and the Royal Regina Rifles all remained proudly “royal”. And for the next four decades, the fight continued to bring back the Canadian Army, Royal Canadian Air Force and Royal Canadian Navy. Despite continuing budget cuts, Canadian military personnel feel they have a bit more respect than they have been receiving over the last few decades.