Written by David Pugliese, Defence Watch - Ottawa Citizen
The country’s army generals are getting their maple leaves back so that allies can identify them as Canadians.
Almost three years after the Conservative government ordered Canadian Army generals to abandon the maple leaf insignia in favour of British-style pips, the army is returning to its previous look.
The move was prompted by concerns that military allies were having trouble recognizing the generals as Canadians, sources say.
The diamond-shaped insignia — known as a pip — will be replaced by a gold-coloured metal maple leaf, Canadian Army spokesperson Capt. Susan Magill said.
She said the change brings the army generals in line with senior officers of the Royal Canadian Navy and Royal Canadian Air Force. Those officers have maple leaves on their epaulets. “There won’t be any confusion as everything will be harmonized,” Magill said.
Over the years Canada’s military allies have come to recognize the maple leaf as a symbol of the country and Canadian Forces. “To change it could have caused some confusion so we want to be sure (when) we’ve got higher ranking officers it’s very clear who is who,” Magill said.
The Conservative government announced in July 2013 that Canadian Army rank insignia, names and badges would revert to those used before 1968 when the military was unified. The army replaced the maple leaf rank designation on the uniforms of officers with pips and crowns. The ranks of non-commissioned officers returned to the original designations that were in place during the First and Second World Wars. Those were based on the British army.
The move followed the Conservative government’s push to re-introduce symbols of the British monarchy to Canadian military organizations. The cost of its 2011 move to reinstate the word “royal” back into the titles of the navy and air force, as well as changing the name of Land Force Command to Canadian Army was about $1 million.
The Conservatives also ordered the removal of gold braid bands on officers’ tunic cuffs. The army is reversing that decision.
“The sleeve braid will be restored to same braid as before 2013,” Magill said.
The Conservatives’ decision to revert to the traditional British military terminology and insignia for Canadian units was greeted enthusiastically by monarchists and some veterans.
But military sources say the changes were not universally welcomed by a generation of army officers who proudly served under the Canadian-oriented insignia and designations for almost 50 years. There was also confusion among some younger soldiers who were having difficulty identifying the ranks of army generals, sources said.
The army will keep the other changes brought in by the Conservatives.
Magill said the cost to replace the pips with the maple leaves was about $6,000.
When he announced the changes, then defence minister Peter MacKay said the Conservatives were committed to honouring the history of the Canadian Army. “The restoration of these historical features will encourage the esprit de corps of our soldiers and reinforce a rich military tradition that will continue to develop as they serve their country,” he said.