Honorary Aide-de-Camp, privilege and honour

Lieutenant Colonel Heather McClelland

Lieutenant Colonel Heather McClelland

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer –

When the Commanding Officer of 11 (Victoria) Field Ambulance began her 35-year military career, she never imagined herself working alongside one of Queen Elizabeth’s vice-regal representatives.

But that is what happened last April when reservist Lieutenant Colonel Heather McClelland was named an Honorary Aide-de-Camp to the newly appointed Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, Janet Austin.

LCol McClelland says the importance of the appointment and its significance really hit home for her during this year’s New Year’s Day Levée ceremony.

“I am so privileged and honoured to be in this position,” she said in the days following the ceremony. “This appointment truly allows me to further show my respect for the monarchy and to stand on guard for Canada.”

A nurse by profession, who currently works as a case manager with a local health organization, she was one of six personal assistants to Lieutenant-Governor Janet Austin at the Government House reception that was attended by over 1,400 guests. The annual ceremony can trace its roots to the 17th Century when British and French monarchs receiving their subjects and representatives in an exchange of New Year’s greetings at the royal palace on the first day of the calendar year. The tradition lives on today in Canada’s provincial capitals and at military bases where visiting military and civilians are greeted by senior leaders.

LCol McClelland, 54, is one of 28 Honorary Aides-de-Camp across the province who serve LGov Austin at official functions throughout the year. She is there to assist Her Honour with anything she may need or want during a ceremony, ensuring the Lieutenant Governor has the opportunity to spend time with everyone in attendance equally.

LCol McClelland typically attends one or two events per month depending on her personnel schedule and the events schedule sent out by staff at Government House.

LCol McClelland rose through the ranks of her reserve unit of the Royal Canadian Medical Services after beginning her military service in 1984. She never imagined, when she first joined, of one day being a Commanding Officer. Starting out as a Private Medic, she became a Warrant Officer 17 years later, taking her commission in 1999. In 2015 she was appointed Commanding Officer of 11 (Victoria) Field Ambulance, and then a year later took up the post of Commanding Officer, 12 (Vancouver) Field Ambulance.

She was nominated to the position of Honorary Aide de Camp by a former commanding officer of her unit and was thrilled with the nomination. She says the formality and protocol of the Office of Lieutenant Governor are part of Canada’s history and tradition, but those who hold the position are regular, often exceptional, people who have accomplished many milestones in their professional careers and through community commitments.
“Lieutenant governors are engaging and humble people; there is no pretentiousness and they are exceptional socially conscious servants of the people,” says LCol McClelland. “She [LGov Austin] is a champion of social justice, strongly believes in reconciliation for First Nations people, and is interested in preserving democracy. It is amazing just to be in her presence and listen to her passions, which makes me feel more engaged and passionate about these same things.”

LCol McClelland recently learned she had something else in common with LGov Austin on a personal level; their mutual love for West Highland White Terrier puppies. Prior to the proceedings at Government House, the Lieutenant-Governor encouraged LCol McClelland’s White Terrier puppy named Lady Roxanna du Beau Chien, Roxy for short, to have her own meet and greet with eight-year-old Vice-Regal Canine Consort MacDuff Austin-Chester, telling her “you must bring your puppy.”

The two dogs immediately caught the attention of the entire gathering in the Lieutenant Governor’s receiving line as Roxy appeared to greet MacDuff with the respect and adoration worthy of a royal canine.

“It was so great to see them meet each other, there was no guarantee they would like each other but the two dogs really hit it off,” said LCol McClelland. “The people loved it and it really stole the show. A few people came up to me and said ‘oh my gosh did you see those two cute puppies’, and I said ‘yes I did’ as the tiny puppy was mine. It was one of those moments I’ll never forget.”

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