RCAF’s new colours presented at Toronto ceremony

The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) was presented with its new colours during a military parade and ceremony in Toronto on Friday.

Snowbirds fly over Lake Ontario, with Toronto cityscape in background.
The Canadian Forces Snowbirds (pictured) and CF-18 Demonstration Hornet were the climax of the RCAF standard presentation parade, finishing it with style and colour. Patrick Cardinal Photo
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Colours are consecrated ceremonial flags carried by designated Canadian Armed Forces combatant formations and units.

David Johnston, Canada’s Governor General and commander-in-chief, presented the new colours at the ceremony in Nathan Phillips Square.

“Your distinguished service is reflected in the colours you will display,” said Johnston in a speech. “Though colours are no longer carried in action, as they had been historically, they continue to be visible symbols of pride, honour and devotion to Canada.”

RCAF personnel march, holding colours.
The old colours were paraded off the Square and stored in custom designed tubes. The 1982 version of the colours standard was for Air Command, the name for the then air component of the Canadian Armed Forces. Andy Cline Photo

The RCAF carries two colours: the Queen’s Colour, a maple leaf flag with the Sovereign’s cypher in the centre, which symbolizes loyalty to the Crown; and the Command Colour, a blue flag with the RCAF’s badge at the centre, symbolizing the RCAF’s pride, cohesion, and valour. The RCAF colours replace the Air Command Colours that were presented 35 years ago in 1982.

“Our colours are precious, and embody the pride, dedication, duty, and honour of all RCAF personnel, past and present,” said LGen Michael Hood, commander of the RCAF.

“As we accept these new colours, all members of the RCAF, regardless of rank, occupation, or experience, symbolically rededicate themselves to upholding these qualities. I am delighted that we are celebrating this historical event with the citizens of Toronto, a city rich in RCAF history and present-day connections.”

Before presenting the new colours, Johnston reviewed the parade.

RCAF personnel march in Nathan Phillips Square
About 200 RCAF personnel, mostly from Canadian Forces Base Borden, paraded the colours in Nathan Phillips Square in front of Toronto City Hall. Many units from across the country sent representative members to take part in the parade. Andy Cline Photo

Coinciding with the parade, the RCAF, with civilian partners from Vintage Wings of Canada and the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum, conducted a “parade of aircraft” in the sky above Nathan Phillips Square.

The flypast included vintage aircraft from the Second World War and aircraft from current RCAF fleets. The Canadian Forces Snowbirds and the CF-18 Demonstration Hornet, which were in Toronto for the Canadian International Air Show, September 2 to 4, participated.

As the RCAF grows, it is important that Canadians have the opportunity to learn more about this technologically advanced and innovative force, both for its essential role in the defence of Canada, and for potential employment. Toronto has significant ties to the RCAF, including Wing Commander William Barker, a First World War fighter ace who served as first president of the Toronto Maple Leafs; the development of the G-suit by University of Toronto researcher Wilbur Franks; and Malton, the birthplace of the Avro Arrow.

Boeing CC-177 Globemaster III in flight
An RCAF Boeing CC-177 Globemaster III was part of a flying display during the ceremony. Andy Cline Photo

“The Royal Canadian Air Force, as the guarantor of Canadian sovereignty, has a long and proud history of defending Canada and its allies,” said Defence Minister Harjit S. Sajjan. “The RCAF members of today can take pride in the past and all that these colours represent as they look to an innovative and proud future.”

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The RCAF was the first of the Commonwealth air forces to be granted, as a service, the privilege of carrying the King’s Colour, which it received in 1950 together with the RCAF Colour. Both were presented in the name of King George VI on Parliament Hill, Ottawa, on the King’s birthday, June 5, 1950, by the Governor General, Viscount Alexander of Tunis. These were replaced by the Air Command Colours in 1982.

Underbelly of CH-149 Cyclone.
The RCAF’s new Sikorsky CH-149 Cyclone made one of its first public appearances. Andy Cline

The 1982 Command Colour carried the badge of Air Command. The new Command Colour reflects the new RCAF badge that was created following the restoration of the RCAF’s historic name in 2011, and includes the RCAF’s motto Sic itur ad astra: “Such is the pathway to the stars.” The new Queen’s Colour carries the Royal Canadian Air Force’s restored name.

Toronto Mayor John Tory also declared Sept. 1, 2017, as Royal Canadian Air Force Day. City Hall lights, the “Toronto” sign in Nathan Phillips Square, and the CN Tower were all illuminated in RCAF blue to mark the special occasion.

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