A whopping 125 year ago, the British-founded Navy League established a Branch in Toronto, which marked the official inauguration of the Navy League of Canada. Although the organization’s objectives have evolved throughout time and space, the Navy League of Canada has remained loyal to its ontological roots, which embody the betterment and promotion of youth programs and maritime security throughout Canada. Today, the Navy League of Canada cordially commences a celebration of the exceptional volunteers, community members, and staff that have contributed to maintaining the organization’s success throughout the years.
Originally, the Navy League was conceived by the British Empire as a response to the increasing aggression of the German Empire in the latter half of the nineteenth century. The organization’s native objective was to ensure adequate naval defence for the British empire, and nearing the end of the 19th century, Branches of the Navy League began to populate abroad at an exponential rate. This resulted in the incorporation of a Navy League Branch in Toronto, whose warrant dated back to 16 December 1895 and now resides in the National Office in Ottawa, Ontario.
The political turmoil that prevailed globally in 1895 ensued the need for a Naval Reserve training program in Canada; as a result, the Toronto Navy League Branch prepared a submission to the Canadian government for this program in order to maintain a robust maritime defence portfolio. The Navy League of Canada’s devoted efforts in support of improved naval defence helped the government when it was forming Canada’s naval policy and establishing the Canadian Naval Service in 1910, which was the predecessor of the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN). In these early years, Canadian Branches informally supported a youth training program catered towards encouraging young men to enter a seafaring career. It provided fundamental training in citizenship and seamanship.
During WWII, the Canadian Government depended heavily on the support of the Navy League of Canada: the organization provided support through the recruitment of Naval and Merchant Navy personnel, operation of hostels for seafaring personnel, welfare services to the dependents of seamen and, in the final stages, the rehabilitation services for Naval Veterans. When the War ended, the Navy League continued its unwavering dedication providing support for the Canadian maritime affairs portfolio and maintained shore hostel facilities for the benefit of seafaring personnel. Training was formalized under the name Boys’ Naval Brigades across the country, which was later modified to the Navy League Sea Cadets to allow the infusion of funds from the Department of the Militia.
During the outbreak of WWII, the Navy League of Canada assumed similar responsibilities that took on in WWI; the organization profoundly expanded its role as a “nursery of Seamen” through the deliverance of 24 hostels in various port areas and the provision of amenities for visiting seamen, including those of the RCN and Canadian Merchant Navy. As the War approached its end, the objectives of the Navy League of Canada deviated slightly from what they had been for the latter half of the 20th century.Later on in the 1940s, the organization made a conscious effort to revamp its support of youth training and promoting the knowledge of maritime affairs throughout Canada. The entry age for the Sea Cadet program had been set at 14 years, which was limiting to youth that wanted to develop indispensable skills to becoming an upstanding citizen and succeeding in future endeavours. Hence, the Navy League established The Navy League Cadet Corps for younger boys in 1948. Shortly after, the Navy League Wrenette Corps for young ladies was established in 1950, which has since become integrated with Sea Cadet and Navy League Cadet Corps.
Today, there are 8,000 Royal Canadian Sea Cadets in 261 Corps across Canada, and 3,200 Navy League Cadet Corps Cadets in 110 Corps across the country. In its 125th year of service throughout the nation, the Navy League of Canada astutely recognizes the outstanding accomplishments of its members, current and past, and is grateful to them for their selfless support of its objectives.