ARCHIVED — Vol. 147, No. 10 — May 8, 2013

Registration

TR/2013-51 May 8, 2013

OTHER THAN STATUTORY AUTHORITY

Order Renaming the Canadian Armed Forces Naval Jack as the Canadian Naval Ensign and Approving its use by the Canadian Forces

P.C. 2013-436 April 25, 2013

His Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of National Defence

  • (a) renames the Canadian Armed Forces Naval Jack as the Canadian Naval Ensign, which is described as follows:
    • Argent a fouled anchor surmounted by an eagle volant affronty head to the sinister, all ensigned by a naval coronet Azure, a canton of the National Flag of Canada; and
  • (b) approves the Canadian Naval Ensign for use by the Canadian Forces as directed by the Minister of National Defence or his or her delegate.

EXPLANATORY NOTE

(This note is not part of the Order.)

Proposal

Renaming the Canadian Armed Forces Naval Jack as the Canadian Naval Ensign and prescribing its use by the Canadian Forces.

Objective

To establish a distinctive Naval Ensign for the Canadian Forces as well as the manner in which its use will be governed.

The purposes of establishing a distinctive Naval Ensign are

  • to bring the manner in which the Royal Canadian Navy complies with international maritime law in line with both Canadian naval tradition and modern international practice; and
  • to permit vessels of the Royal Canadian Navy to be clearly and appropriately distinguished from other Canadian flagged vessels.

Background

An Ensign is the national flag of a country adapted for use on board a ship and it represents the national colours of the nation’s warships. The Canadian Armed Forces Naval Jack is the flag flown at the bow of vessels of the Royal Canadian Navy. The suit of colours for vessels of the Royal Canadian Navy (i.e. its complement of flags) consists of the National Flag (as an Ensign), the Canadian Armed Forces Naval Jack, and a White (Commissioning) Pennant.

For the purposes of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), “warship” means a ship belonging to the armed forces of a State bearing the external marks distinguishing such ships of its nationality, under the command of an officer duly commissioned by the government of the State and whose name appears in the appropriate service list or its equivalent, and manned by a crew which is under regular armed forces discipline. The intent of this initiative is to distinguish these vessels from all other Canadian flagged vessels.

International law recognizes that every vessel afloat has a national character, and places duties on flag states to regulate and restrict the legitimate use of flags that indicate national character. The sizes of ensigns and jacks vary in size proportionally with the type, size and purpose of the ship and within a class of ship, the Jack traditionally being one size smaller than the Ensign.

The suit of colours for vessels of the Royal Canadian Navy has changed several times in the past. The suit of colours worn by vessels of the Royal Canadian Navy was first defined in a 1911 order-in-council. At that time, it consisted of the White (Royal Naval) Ensign at the stern, the Blue (Government of Canada) Ensign as a Jack at the bow, and a White (Commissioning) Pennant at the masthead.

As a result of the adoption of a national flag in 1965, the suit of colours for vessels of the Royal Canadian Navy became the Maple Leaf National Flag (as an Ensign and as a Jack) and a White (Commissioning) Pennant. In keeping with established Commonwealth practices, the national flag is normally flown as a Jack, and so was the Maple Leaf flag from 1965 until 1968. The Canadian Armed Forces Naval Jack was designed and came into use in 1968.

The absence of a distinctive Canadian Naval Ensign and the wearing of the National Flag as an ensign, by vessels of the Royal Canadian Navy, were inconsistent with the practice of the majority of Commonwealth countries. The principal rationale for the change is to clearly distinguish vessels of the Royal Canadian Navy from other Canadian flagged vessels.

Operations that have taken place since the end of the Cold War have brought forward the need for clear national naval identity, particularly in international operations. Likewise, establishing a distinctive Canadian Naval Ensign is consistent with the recent practice of a number of nations having a significant naval presence, most notably Russia, India and China, each of which have purposefully adopted a distinctive naval ensign within the past few years.

Establishing a distinctive Canadian Naval Ensign is also in line with other Government heritage initiatives, most recently the restoration of the Royal designation to the Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Implications

The distinctive Canadian Naval Ensign will be flown by vessels of the Royal Canadian Navy, and the National Flag will be flown as the Naval Jack, thereby reversing the current order of the flags.

Departmental contacts

Rear-admiral Mark Norman
Deputy Commander
Royal Canadian Navy
Telephone: 613-945-0612
Email: mark.norman@forces.gc.ca

Lieutenant-commander Ramona Burke
Acting Director
Navy History and Heritage
Telephone: 613-971-7688
Email: ramona.burke@forces.gc.ca