On 20 July 2017, the Motor Vessel (MV) Asterix was ‘unveiled’ at an event similar to that of a ceremony putting a Canadian warship into commission. Asterix had undergone major work by the shipbuilder Chantier Davie to convert her from a containership to a ship meeting the requirements of the Interim Auxiliary Oiler, Replenishment (iAOR) project for the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN). Asterix had not been leased into service with the RCN at the time of her unveiling, the ceremony was a civil one arranged by the shipbuilder. Naval and civil marine ceremonies have a lot in common, originating hundreds of years ago when warships were merchant ships taken up for military service for the crown. These ceremonies include religious actions such as blessings and sacrifice of a bottle of wine across the ship’s bow. At times in Canada, First Nations people and their practices are involved, such as when Mi’kmaw elders accompanied the sponsor of Her Majesty’s Ship (HMCS) Micmac at that destroyer’s christening and launching in 1943. At the unveiling of Asterix, this is the invocation1 given by Sage Oney Maher of the Huron-Wendat people:
“Kew! J’aimerais premièrement remercier le créateur de nous avoir donné la santé pour être ici aujourd’hui et j’aimerais remercier mère terre, elle qui nous nourrit, elle qui s’occupe de nos lacs et nos rivières, nos animaux, notre végétation. Sans elle nous ne pourrions pas être ici. On va demander aux esprits des 4 directions de toujours bien guider ce navire et son équipage. On sait qu’ils peuvent être dans des endroits dangereux mais j’ai confiance que ces esprits seront là pour eux.
I want to first thank our creator for giving us our health to be here today. Also thank mother earth for everything she gives us, the way she feeds us, takes care of our lake and rivers, our animals. Now I’m going ask the spirit of the 4 directions to guide this wonderful ship and its crew and keep it safe.
Maintenant il me reste à vous dire merci, thank you.”
Note 1: Information provided by Federal Fleet Services Incorporated, 8 September 2017.
Photo: Chantier Davie