Timeline – The Events that Lead to Its Creation and Beyond

Colonial Period (To be determined)

[To be developed]

World War I (1914-1918)

[To be developed]

World War II (1939-1945)

1939

  • The Merchant Navy Seaman in the UK were covered under the Pension Act (Navy, Army, Air Force and Mercantile Marine) right from the very beginning of the war.
  • The Battle of the Atlantic was a battle for control over shipping in the Atlantic Ocean which lasted from September 1939 until May 1945.

1940

  • During the second year of the war, enemy U-boats were very successful. They sank more ships than were built.
  • On June 15, the Erik Boye, a 2,238 gross ton vessel, was the first Canadian Merchant ship to go down as a casualty in The Battle of the Atlantic.

1941

  • A Canadian Government statement acknowledged that "the Merchant Marine ...is...virtually an arm of our fighting services."

1942

  • There is an average of 33 Allied mercantile ships sunk each week. This was the most successful year in U-boat history with 1200-1600 Allied ships sunk.
  • October 9: British actress Anna Neagle appears on CBC Radio's Merchant Navy Show in Montreal, where she is affectionately greeted by 1,200 men that packed the Sailor’s Institute in Montreal.

1943

  • Canadian Munitions and Supply Minister, C. D. Howe, forecast in the House of Commons that an all-Canadian Merchant fleet numbering over 200 ships would emerge after the war. A post-war Merchant Navy was seen by many as a source of employment and would be a real benefit to Canadian post-war commerce.

1945

  • More than one million service men and women were demobilized and benefited in one way or another from the legislation under the Veterans Charter.
  • Benefits were discussed in relation to the Merchant Seamen, but the Honourable Lionel Chevrier, Minister of Transport, stated that "benefits should not be of a nature which would encourage Seamen to leave the industry at the end of the war to seek employment in other fields, as the services of many skilled Seamen will be required if Canada is to maintain a Merchant Navy after the war."

Post-War (1945-2001)

1946

  • With the war over, all of the Merchant Navy ships were stripped of their military equipment such as guns, ammunition, and more.  They were now to be used for peace-time trade and commerce. During the war, most of the Merchant Navy was owned by crown corporations.

1948

  • There were increasing problems with the Canadian Merchant Navy, such as falling freight rates and devaluation of the pound.  The private companies were losing money.

1949

  • There was an announcement by Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent which read: "We have concluded that we are not justified from an economic viewpoint in maintaining a Canadian flag [a government subsidized Merchant Navy] by artificial means.  It is not the intention of the Government to maintain an industry at the expense of the taxpayer." This sounded the death knell for the Canadian shipping fleet.

1950

  • By the time the Canadian Merchant Navy disbanded, the good jobs were gone, and any government aid for relocation or rehabilitation of the merchant seaman was non-existent (though it had been available in 1945 for the regular forces).

1952

  • Canadian Merchant Navy Veterans did receive the War Veterans Allowance.

1981

  • The Veterans Independence Program (VIP) was established, and eligibility was provided to Merchant Seamen that required the care and services available under this program as a result of a pension disability.

1985 - 1990

  • Problems reached an acute stage by the late 1980s when the Merchant Seaman were encountering severe problems due to advancing age.

1992

  • Canadian Merchant Navy Veterans received disability pensions, allowances, and health care benefits through the Merchant Navy Veteran and Civilian War Related Benefits Act. Former members of the Merchant Navy were given official veteran status. This was only a partial solution because there still existed a loss of benefits between 1945 and 1992. Moreover, the new benefits did not compare favourably with those available to members of the regular forces.

1998

  • September 29: Former Merchant Seamen went on a hunger strike on Parliament Hill. They demanded that Veterans Affairs Minister Fred Mifflin give the 2,300 surviving merchant mariners equal benefits to other veterans.
  • October 10: The Merchant Navy veterans ended their hunger strike when they were promised a meeting with the Minister of Veterans Affairs.
  • November 25: The Merchant Seamen began their second hunger strike.
  • November 27: The Merchant Seamen ended their second hunger strike. The Merchant Navy Veterans attempted to persuade the committee to give a special one-time payment for the benefits they did not receive between 1945 and 1992.
  • December 2: Minister of Veterans Affairs, Fred Mifflin, introduced Bill C-61, the new veterans Omnibus Bill. This was the first reading in the House of Commons. This Bill contains amendments intended to clarify the wording of the legislation. The proposed legislation would transfer current Merchant Navy veteran clauses to the main Veterans Act, namely the Pension Act and the War Veterans Allowance Act.

1999

  • March 18: Hearings before Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs examining the issue of compensation for Merchant Navy veterans commence.
  • June 9: The Standing Committee issues report following hearings. Compensation was supported by all Opposition parties, but voted down by Liberal majority. Report instead recommends War Museum display, a spot on Museum Board and $1 million dollar scholarship fund for students studying the Merchant Navy.
  • December 15: Following meeting, heads of Canadian Veterans organizations, including those representing Merchant Seamen, issue joint communiqué, recommending to government a compensation package ranging from $5,000 to $20,000, plus an additional 20% for those who were Prisoners of War. Estimated cost is $64 million with approximately 7,200 Merchant Seamen or widows benefiting. Baker expected to put this before government when Parliament resumes in early February 2000.

2000

  • February 1: Minister of Veterans Affairs George Baker announces a $50 million tax-free package for Canada's Merchant Navy Veterans and surviving spouses. Payments will be made to eligible Canadian merchant mariners who served during the First and Second World Wars and the Korean War.
  • October: An additional $20 million is announced by new Veterans Affairs Minister Ronald J. Duhamel adding to the $50 million approved by his predecessor.

2001

  • May 4: Minister of Veterans Affairs Ron Duhamel announces an additional $34.5 million to provide a full second payment for qualified Canadian Merchant Navy veterans and their surviving spouses. This follows the first 60% installment and concludes the ex gratia Merchant Navy Special Benefit bringing the total package to $104.5 million. More than 7,000 applicants have qualified for payments, the majority ranging from $5,000 to $20,000 depending on the length of service.

Merchant Navy Commemorative Theme Project (MNCTP) - the Events that Lead to Its Creation and Beyond (1988-2012)

Pre-MNCTP - The Beginning - 1988 to 2000

Success Highlights

  • Over $250,000 raised for the preservation of the Sydney Harbour Fortifications
  • The founding of two non-for-profit organizations.
  • Over 100 newspaper articles published (i.e. Cape Breton Post, Chronical Herald, and more), in addition to radio and television broadcasts (CBC and other community networks).
  • Demolition of fortification is prevented, site is preserved, designated as a National Historic Site, and is developed into a military museum.
  • Employment is generated (2-3 student summer jobs per year), contributions to tourism are made (15,000 approximate visitations per year) in generating spin-off revenues and to local infrastructure development initiatives.

The Preservation of the East Coast Defence System - Sydney, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

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1988 - 1998

  • Established two non-for-profit organizations - The Sydney Harbour Fortifications Society (SHFS), and the Chapel Point Society (CPS) to preserve the WWII fortifications surrounding Sydney Harbour, Sydney, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.
  • Several petitions are circulated and 982 signatures are collected to prevent the demolition of Fort Petrie. These signatures came from the following schools and other organizations:
    • Breton Education Centre
    • John Bernard Croak School – Reserve
    • Saint Anne School – Glace Bay
    • St-Michaels Elementary
    • Saint Michaels Junior High – Glace Bay
    • Sydney Academy
    • Tomkins Memorial School
    • Kinsmen Club – New Waterford
    • Nova Scotia Housing – Sydney
    • Army & Navy
  • Chapel Point acquired by the Town of Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia, for development as a heritage site and tourist attraction.
  • Fort Petrie acquired by SHFS.
  • Demolition moratorium (on Fort Petrie) granted by the Department of National Defence.
  • Supreme Court grants (on Fort Petrie) injunction from demolition.
  • Fort Petrie designated as a Municipal Heritage Property by the County of Cape Breton.
  • Fort Petrie is recognized and designated as a national historic site, and is given the National Atlantic Bulwark Plaque from the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada.

The Preservation and Promotion of our Local History (Sydney Harbour, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia)

2000

Supporting the Cause of the Merchant Navy – 2002 to 2003

Success Highlights

  • The Senate of Canada proclaims September 3 as the Official Day of Remembrance for Merchant Navy Veterans.
  • Vice-Admiral R.D. Buck, Chief of the Maritime Staff, ushers in a new era of co-operation between the Canadian Merchant Navy and the Royal Canadian Navy.

2002

  • Radio drama "On Convoy" is broadcasted nationally on CBC Radio on Remembrance Day.

2003

The Official Launch of the MNCTP and its Evolution - 2004 to Present

Success Highlights

  • The MNCTP is created and establishes itself as a national organization dedicated to preserving the memories of Merchant Navy Veterans from WWI and WWII.
  • The MNCTP and its partners (under Bill C-411) organizes the first Merchant Navy Veterans Remembrance Day event in Canada, held in the NCR.
  • MNCTP Executive Director is invited to attend the Canadian Merchant Navy Veterans AGM in Halifax.
  • A first time fly-by, courtesy of Vintage Wings of Canada, occurs at the War Memorial in Ottawa.
  • MNCTP Executive Director appears before the Sub-Committee on Veterans Affairs.

2004

  • The first Merchant Navy Veterans Day ceremony (under Bill C-411) is held at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, with a reception at the Senate Foyer following the commemorative event.
  • Established partnership with the University of Ottawa through the Community Service Learning program - providing students with volunteer Canadian labour market experience in addition to university course accreditation.
  • Other partnerships and agency support (in kind) includes: the Navy League of Canada, Veterans Affairs Canada, and the Royal Canadian Navy.

2005

  • Merchant Marine music video is produced by Celtae and released at Barrymore's Music Hall, Ottawa.
  • The second Merchant Navy Veterans Day event is held at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, with a reception following the ceremony at the Senate Foyer.
  • MNCTP is invited by the Canadian Merchant Navy Veterans Association to give an inaugural presentation to their Board and association members.

2006

  • Canadian Merchant Navy Association Gala held at the Lord Elgin Hotel
  • The third Merchant Navy Veterans Day ceremony is held at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, with a reception following the ceremony at the Government Conference Centre.

2007

  • Fourth Merchant Navy Veterans Day Ceremony is held at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, with a first time fly-by, courtesy of the Vintage Wings of Canada, and a reception following the ceremony held at the Government Conference Centre.

2008

  • Presentation made to the Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs (of the Committee on National Security and Defence) by Col (Rtr'd) John Gardam, Governor, MNCTP, and Mr. Stéphane Ouellette, Executive Director, MNCTP.
  • Presentation made to the Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs (of the Committee on National Security and Defence) by Mr. Ferguson, President, and Mr. Jean-Luc Dutil, Executive Vice-president, Canadian Merchant Navy Veterans Association (CMNVA).
  • Fifth Merchant Navy Veterans Day Ceremony was held at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, with a reception following the ceremony held at the Government Conference Centre.

2009

  • Sixth Merchant Navy Veterans Day ceremony is held at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, with a reception held at the Lord Elgin Hotel.
  • The Memory Project: Stories of the Second World War, an initiative of the Historica-Dominion Institute, is present throughout the Merchant Navy Remembrance weekend (September 11-13) to record the wartime experiences of Merchant Navy veterans.

2010

  • Presided over the planning and execution of the seventh Merchant Navy Veterans Day ceremony held at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, with a reception that took place at the Lord Elgin Hotel. This year, Vice-Admiral P. Dean McFadden, Chief of the Maritime Staff, made an historic address to Canada’s Merchant Navy Veterans.
  • Also, appeared live on 580 CFRA to promote the project, and received significant media coverage, such as the Sun, the Ottawa Citizen, and CTV.

2011

  • Presided over the planning and execution of the eighth Merchant Navy Veterans Day ceremony held at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, with a reception that took place at the Lord Elgin Hotel. This year, I invited Vice-Admiral P. Dean McFadden, Chief of the Maritime Staff, to make an historic address to Canada’s Merchant Navy Veterans.

2012

  • Presided over the planning and execution of the ninth Merchant Navy Veterans Day ceremony held at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, with a reception that took place at the Lord Elgin Hotel. Also, Mr. Royal Galipeau, Vice-Chair of the House of Commons, Senator Josesph A. Day, and Vice-Admiral Paul Maddison, Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy, made an address to the Canadian Merchant Navy Veterans.