Proud navy appointment

The Honourable Janet Austin visited Base Logistics last week to be fitted for her new Honorary Captain(N) uniform. Photo courtesy Lieutenant Governor’s Office

The Honourable Janet Austin visited Base Logistics last week to be fitted for her new Honorary Captain(N) uniform. Photo courtesy Lieutenant Governor’s Office

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

The Honourable Janet Austin, B.C.’s Lieutenant Governor, said if her father were alive today he would be proud of her recently appointed Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) role, which serves as a continuation of her family’s naval tradition.

That’s because the vice-regal representative of Queen Elizabeth II has officially joined Victoria’s naval reserve unit HMCS Malahat as their Honorary Captain.

Her father, Lt Grey Howick Merivale Austin served in the Royal Navy during the Battle of Atlantic. Later in his naval career, he was the senior officer in charge of bringing British naval ships to Halifax.

“He lived in Barbados, enlisted in the Royal Navy when he was 18 on the same day Pearl Harbor was attacked, and served on a number of ships as a young officer,” said LGov Austin. “He would be absolutely thrilled to see that I have become an honorary member of the Royal Canadian Navy. That’s because he always credited his naval training and career as being a crucial formative moment in his life, and helped develop his ethics and self-discipline needed to be successful in life.”

Last Monday, she had her first uniform fitting at Base Logistics clothing stores. She’ll return in a few weeks to try on her uniform to ensure it fits.

Honorary members of the Canadian military are distinguished Canadians that act as ambassadors. Their responsibilities include performing public outreach for the organization they represent while also helping foster esprit de corps for the troops. She said she is “extremely delighted and looking forward to supporting the navy.”

The appointment of Lieutenant Governors to honorary Captains and Colonels in Canada’s military is a customary tradition of those who hold that office. She hoped her appointment would be with the Royal Canadian Navy because of CFB Esquimalt’s prominence and importance to the City of Victoria, and to honour her father.

LGov Austin was officially named to the Honorary Captain post in March. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Her Honour’s uniform fitting and many of her duties were put on hold until last week.

Before Base Logictics (BLOG) staff moved in with their measuring tape for her fitting, LGov Austin and her representatives from Government House were greeted by Capt(N) Sam Sader, Base Commander, and representatives from BLOG and HMCS Malahat.

“Honorary Captains are valued members of our naval family and are committed to making a difference for Canada through their support,” said Cdr Cameron Miller, Malahat’s Commanding Officer. “On behalf of all HMCS Malahat, we want to express our pride and appreciation in being able to welcome the Honourable Janet Austin as a member of our ship’s company.”

Dubbed a stone frigate, Malahat is a land-based naval training establishment for naval reserve sailors. It is one of 24 Naval Reserve Divisions operating in major cities across the country. In fact, the genesis of the Naval Reserve began in Victoria in 1913.

LGov Austin was appointed as British Columbia’s 30th Lieutenant Governor in March 2018 replacing Judith Guichon. Her role is both symbolic and ceremonial with handing out medals, citations, greeting dignitaries, and opening sessions of the Legislative Assembly as some of her main tasks.

Prior to her appointment, she spent 15 years as Chief Executive Officer of YWCA Vancouver, one of the province’s largest and most diversified non-profits. She has previously served on boards of TransLink, the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, the Canadian Paediatric Society, and several non-profit organizations.

A graduate of the University of Calgary’s English program, LGov Austin spent the early part of her career in public sector roles in Calgary, working in regional planning and public consultation communications for the Alberta government.

She says her latest role for the navy is one she will greatly relish.

“I will do whatever I can in my new role to encourage young people to consider careers in the naval reserves and develop their skill and knowledge as their service is a wonderful opportunity to learn and grow. I am highly impressed by the RCN’s efforts to support women in the advancement of their naval careers and to promote diversity within its ranks and hope to help enhance this goal.”


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