OCTOBER 14, 2020

Today – Mr. Stéphane Ouellette, President and Chief Executive Officer, Merchant Navy Commemorative Theme Project (MNCTP), joined Rear-Admiral Chris Sutherland Deputy Commander, Royal Canadian Navy, at the Royal Canadian Navy Monument (Ottawa) to commemorate the Allied Merchant Navy and American Merchant Marine Veterans, the Royal Canadian Navy, and the sinking of the Newfoundland Ferry

S.S. Caribou. Also, Rear-Admiral Brian Santarpia, Commander Maritime Forces Atlantic, and Captain (Rtr’d) Earle Wagner, Merchant Navy Veteran, and Honorary Governor of the MNCTP, laid a wreath at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

During the Second World War, a total of 25,343 merchant ships, with 164,783,921 tons of cargo on board, sailed from North America to Britain. The Royal Canadian Navy gave to the struggle over 2, 000 dead and 24 warships. More than 900 RCAF and Canadian Army personnel were also lost. Over 2,199 Canadian Merchant Navy Seaman were killed in both World Wars. Moreover, more than 250,000 American Merchant Marine sailed the treacherous oceans of the globe. Over 6,835 American Merchant Marine were killed and over 11,000 wounded. In addition, 604 Merchant Mariners were taken prisoners of war, resulting in 61 casualties within POW camps.

October 14, 2020, marks the 78th Anniversary of the sinking of the Newfoundland ferry S.S. Caribou that was torpedoed in the Cabot Strait on her way to Port aux Basques, Newfoundland: 136 of the 237 souls on board perished. The year 2020 also marks the 75th Anniversary of the end of the Battle of the Atlantic, and the 110th Anniversary of the Royal Canadian Navy.

October 2020 is Women’s History Month in Canada. Throughout time immemorial, countless of women have played an essential role in shaping our world and advancing Canadian society. Indubitably, the First and Second World Wars brought enormous changes to women’s lives as Canada was being propelled towards national self- awareness, unity, and ultimate sovereignty. Women were critical to the Canadian war effort and to the success of Canada’s Victory Campaign. This includes the almost 7,000 women that served their country in a wide variety of crucial roles during the War. In this way, we also pay tribute to the Women’s Royal Canadian Navy Service.

Today’s Ottawa event was ‘live-streamed’ on the Royal Canadian Navy Facebook page, and can be viewed at: RCN Facebook Page


“On this day, we honour our veterans of the Merchant Navy and remember the crucial role they played in securing victory in Europe. They faced years of relentless attacks from German U-boats trying to cut Allied supply lines. Yet, with an unwavering commitment to the war effort and to ensuring allied forces received necessary supplies, the Merchant Navy made trip after trip with the knowledge that their vessels were key targets for the enemy. We must never forget the many sacrifices they made in the name of freedom, peace, and democracy.”

– The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada (from PM Merchant Navy Day Greetings’ Letter)

“As an Island Nation, we in the United Kingdom still depend heavily on the great trade routes of the sea. … During the Second World War, that vital lifeline came very near to being severed. The stark courage of the sailors of the Merchant Navy should never be forgotten, and I write to assure you of my prayers of thankfulness for all that our forebears and elders achieved, despite their great suffering.”

– The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury (July 21, 2017)

“This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic and we are gathered here today to honour the sacrifices made by the thousands of Canadians who signed up for the Merchant Navy and the Royal Canadian Navy. Many paid the ultimate price in ensuring desperately needed equipment, fuel, goods, and personnel arrived at the front lines.

“Every day at sea meant great risk to their lives and for ships like the S.S. Caribou, they were prime targets for enemy action. I ask everyone, take up the torch of remembrance, tell their stories, and honour their sacrifice.”

– RAdm Brian Santarpia, Commander, Maritime Forces Atlantic

“It is a privilege for me to stand among our men and women in uniform today to honour our Allied Merchant Navy and American Merchant Marine Veterans as the mainstay of the Allied Forces victories in both World Wars. We also recognize their contributions to the Korean and Vietnam conflicts. The critical role of the ‘present day’ Merchant Navy/Merchant Marine to global security, defence, and to the economy, cannot be overstated.

“I also wish to express my heartfelt appreciation to the Canadian Armed Forces/Department of National Defence, Veterans’ organizations, the Senate of Canada, Veterans Affairs Canada, the Government of Canada (in general), provinces/territories, and nations worldwide that have contributed to advancing this noble cause.”
– Stéphane Ouellette, President and CEO, MNCTP

Associated Links

Ministers MacAulay and Sajjan recognize Merchant Navy Day and the 81st anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of the Atlantic | Video Message | Government of Canada | Facebook | September 3, 2020

Minister of Veterans Affairs and Minister of National Defence mark Merchant Navy Veterans Day and the 81st anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of the Atlantic | News Release | Veterans Affairs Canada | September 3, 2020

Battle of the Atlantic | Veterans Affairs Canada

Royal Canadian Navy and the Battle of the Atlantic, 1939-1945 | Canadian War Museum

Merchant Navy Historical Sheet | Veterans Affairs Canada

Valour at Sea – Canada’s Merchant Navy | Veterans Affairs Canada

Battle of the St. Lawrence | Veterans Affairs Canada