Fabled WW2 destroyer named as ceremonial flagship

National Defence plans to designate the Second World War destroyer HMCS Haida as the Royal Canadian Navy's "ceremonial flagship." Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan says the storied warship is an important part of Canada's naval history.

Designation a victory for group that consider HMCS Haida the 'fightingest' ship in Canadian history

HMCS Haida moved from Toronto to Hamilton in 2003. It has been stationed at Pier 9 in the harbour ever since. (Kevin Frayer/Canadian Press)

Turns out there are limits to the Canadian military's appetite for used equipment.

A bid to have the storied Second World War destroyer HMCS Haida recommissioned has been rejected by National Defence.

Responding to an e-petition tabled recently in the House of Commons, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said the warship — currently in the custody of Parks Canada and docked in Hamilton — is a valued part of the country's naval history.

"While the government does not support the re-commissioning of HMCS Haida, it will designate HMCS Haida the Flagship of the [Royal Canadian Navy] for ceremonial purposes," said the written response.

It's a victory for supporters of the group Project Naval Distinction, which has been lobbying for the honour for well over a year.

It wanted the government to formally designate the Haida the "fightingest" ship in Canadian history, to make it a permanent part of the Canadian War Museum and to issue a commemorative coin.

This summer marks the 75th anniversary of Haida's commissioning. The warship fought in the North Atlantic and off Normandy during the Second World War, and was in service during the Korean War.

'Costly and difficult'

It is credited by historians with sinking more surface ships than any other Royal Canadian Navy warship.

The destroyer was decommissioned in 1963 and taken completely out of service the following year. It became a museum ship along the Toronto waterfront.

Eventually, it was moved to Hamilton.

"From a technical perspective, HMCS HAIDA can no longer be sailed and moving it even short distances is challenging, costly and difficult," said Sajjan's response, explaining why the government is opting for a ceremonial honour.

"While the RCN will not provide the crew, funding or any official unit designation that are usually provided for a commissioned warship in the RCN, and all responsibility for care, custody, maintenance, crewing and any other issue will remain with Parks Canada, this option will allow Canadians to honour the spirit of HMCS HAIDA at no additional cost."

The destroyer will be given an honorary commanding officer and will observe the traditional sunrise and sunset ceremonies when it is open to the public between May and October.

The response does not say whether the Haida will get a commemorative coin. The Project Naval Distinction website says it submitted a letter to Finance Minister Bill Morneau's office last December with two possible designs and "is awaiting a response."

The Trudeau government has faced opposition criticism for its plan to buy used Australian FA-18s to supplement the air force's existing fleet of CF-18s.

The decision has made the Liberals the butt of jokes in the military and among editorial cartoonists.

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