Nova Scotia

HMCS Halifax leaves for deployment as part of NATO support for Ukraine

The frigate left Saturday for a six-month deployment supporting NATO in the North Atlantic and will join allied ships in the Baltic region as part of Operation Reassurance.

Canadian navy frigate headed to North Atlantic, Baltic region

A woman takes a photo as HMCS Halifax departs Halifax in support of NATO's deterrence measures in eastern Europe on Saturday, March 19, 2022. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

HMCS Halifax has set off for a six-month deployment supporting NATO in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Families and friends of the 253 members of the ship's company hugged their loved ones and waved goodbye under a grey sky Saturday afternoon on a Halifax jetty.

The Canadian navy frigate will be active in the North Atlantic and join allied ships in the Baltic region as part of Operation Reassurance. The ship is also deploying with an embedded air detachment operating a Cyclone helicopter out of 12 Wing Shearwater.

Defence Minister Anita Anand attended the departure. She thanked Halifax's crew for their service in her remarks.

"At this time it is so important for us all to be united, to stand together, to stand against unwarranted and illegal Russian aggression, and to stand up for peace, deterrence and the defensive posture on which NATO is built," Anand said.

Defence Minister Anita Anand, left, waves with family members as HMCS Halifax departs Halifax in support of NATO's deterrence measures in eastern Europe on Saturday, March 19, 2022. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan)

HMCS Halifax was originally slated to sail to the Middle East in the next few weeks for a counterterrorism operation. But the frigate and crew will instead head to northern Europe, retasked by the federal government as part of Canada's larger military support package.

It will join another Canadian ship already overseas supporting NATO in the operation. Last month, HMCS Montreal arrived in the Mediterranean region as part of a previously scheduled deployment.

"You are making a difference. Your presence in Europe will help Canada meet its NATO commitments and show our friends that we are there for them in good times, and in bad. In tough times we are with them," Anand said.

Megan Ellis (left) poses with her sons, Clifton and Lincoln, on the jetty with her husband Matthew Ellis (above) before he set sail with HMCS Halifax on March 19, 2022. (Taryn Grant/CBC)

Megan Ellis and her sons, Lincoln and Clifton, were on the jetty Saturday to wave goodbye to their father, Matthew Ellis.

The boys said they had spent lots of time bowling, going out to dinner and watching movies with their dad last week before he had to sail.

Both Lincoln and Clifton said they were "a little worried" while watching him leave.

"I'm more sad today," Megan said. "The worry will come."

Ron Nash was also there to send off his brother. He said their family has been talking with him to make sure he's "mentally prepared" for the deployment.

"Hopefully ... he'll be safe and able to come back safely," Nash said.

Cmdr. Dale St Croix, commanding officer of HMCS Halifax, said it was "heartwarming" for the ship's crew to see the support from Nova Scotia politicians, dignitaries and federal representatives like Anand and Gen. Wayne Eyre, chief of the defence staff.

"We're ready, willing, eager, and able to proceed overseas, conduct whatever mission the government of Canada has for us," St Croix said during the Saturday event.

"I've never been prouder to work with a crew as such that are right behind me."

Cmdr. Dale St Croix, commanding officer of HMCS Halifax, speaks to families of the crew, media and politicians on Saturday before the ship left for a six-month deployment in the Baltic region as part of Operation Reassurance. (CBC)

St Croix has told CBC the ship will be there to "help defend if need be" as countries like Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland are all on the border of conflict.

He added that the ship may also need to assist with humanitarian efforts. 

Halifax's next port of call will be in England, where the sea training group disembarks. The ship will then co-ordinate with NATO allies before continuing to the Baltic area.

The deployment is supposed to last until July, but could be extended, said St Croix.

The Halifax-class frigates have been in service since the early 1990s. HMCS Halifax was the first ship of the class to be built.

Canada is finalizing plans for a fleet of new Canadian surface combatants, which would replace the aging frigates.

However, the current ships are still maintained on Canada's East and West coasts and are deployed on missions around the world.

With files from Brett Ruskin and Taryn Grant

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