St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador
September 20, 2018
The setting could hardly have been more appropriate: a gusty, rainy day at the Canadian Coast Guard’s Atlantic Region Headquarters on St. John’s harbour, with the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Leonard J. Cowley and crew (just back from a two-week fisheries patrol to the Grand Banks) docked in the background, all set to the sounds of the Ode to Newfoundland, O Canada and a medley of Newfoundland favourites performed by members of the local Holy Heart Chamber Choir.
The occasion? Governor General Julie Payette’s investiture as Honorary Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard, followed by her first official act in the role: the presentation of Exemplary Service Medals and First Bars to four deserving Coast Guard members.
“One of the best jobs there can be is to serve your country in uniform, and to do so on a vessel – what an extraordinary life!” Ms. Payette enthused in her remarks to the assembled, which included Commissioner Jeffrey Hutchison and Assistant Commissioner Wade Spurrell among the Coast Guard members and supporters in attendance.
“Recently,” the Governor General continued, “I was aboard the (CCGS) Amundsen, roaming the High Arctic, mapping the floor of the Arctic Ocean, and doing research so we can understand the changes that are happening there. The Amundsen, I am so proud to say, does research in the summer in the Arctic and breaks ice in the St. Lawrence in the winter. And this is exactly what the Coast Guard does every day in keeping our Canadian waters safe and accessible, and ensuring their sustainable use and development.”
As if to illustrate the point, Ms. Payette presented First Bars and Exemplary Service Medals to Captain Fergus Francey, Ms. Janet McCabe, Mr. Irving Barney and Ms. Daisy White, who together have a combined 131 years of Coast Guard experience. From commanding vessels to undertaking search and rescue, icebreaking and buoy tending operations to research, engineering and stewarding, the recipients highlight the range of experience and accomplishment to be found among members of the service.
In a surprise moment recalling Ms. Payette’s days aboard an altogether different kind of ship (i.e. a NASA space shuttle), Captain Jonathon Bieber, Commanding Officer of the CCGS Harp, asked Her Excellency to autograph a t-shirt he wore during a visit to one of her shuttle launches in Florida.
For Commissioner Hutchinson, the Governor General’s presence represented a meaningful show of appreciation for a service whose work often goes unseen by the general public.
“Today, every single employee at the Canadian Coast Guard is filled with pride as we welcome the Governor General of Canada aboard as our new Honorary Chief Commissioner,” he said.
“Canada is a Maritime and Arctic nation. Her Excellency’s work will underscore just how important marine safety is to Canadians.”
In her new honorary role, the Governor General will support national ceremonial and promotional initiatives that celebrate the Coast Guard’s contribution to saving lives and protecting the marine environment.
The ceremony at the Atlantic Region Headquarters in St. John’s marked Ms. Payette’s fourth engagement with the Canadian Coast Guard since the beginning of her mandate, with previous activities taking place in Victoria, Halifax and onboard the CCGS Amundsen.