The arrival of the Cruiser Niobe at Halifax, on the 21st October, and the Rainbow at Esquimault on the 7th November, marks a departure of the greatest consequence in the policy of Canada. Under the new British naval scheme brought into force a few years ago, the British squadron stationed on the Pacific coast of Canada was withdrawn ; since when, except for occasional visits, the Navy has been practically unrepresented on the Dominion seaboard. In 1908 and 1909 much interest was aroused in Great Britain, and in the self-governing Colonies, on the question of the naval supremacy of the Mother Country, and in consequence, in March of the latter year a resolution was passed in the Canadian House of Commons to the effect that that House would cordially approve of any necessary expenditure designed to promote the speedy organisation of a Canadian naval service, in co-operation with, and in close relation to the Imperial Navy.
Opinions differed as to the form that this departure should take, some members advocating a money contribution to the British Navy, while others held that Canada should, as far as possible, provide her own defence, and that it would not be wise for her navy to form part of that of Great Britain.
An Imperial Defence Conference, at which Canada was represented, met in London in July, 1909, and it was then agreed that the Dominion should lay the foundation of her own fleet, and that a beginning should be made with cruisers of the Bristol class, and destroyers of an improved river class. To give effect to this agreement, a Naval Defence Bill was introduced into the Canadian House of Commons in January, 1910, which provided for the organisation of a naval service, including a permanent force, a reserve force, and a volunteer force. It was stated that the early construction was contemplated of two cruisers of the Bristol class, three of the Boadicea class, and six destroyers, and for this purpose an appropriation for the current year of 3000,000 dollars was taken. It was provided in the Act that, in case of emergency, the Government might, by an order in council, place the fleet at the disposal of His Majesty the King. The Government also decided to purchase at once, from the British Admiralty, two cruisers that could be used for fishery protection, and also for the purpose of training under British Naval Officers Canadians for the naval service. The cruisers Niobe and Rainbow were procured, the former to be stationed on the Atlantic and the latter on the Pacific coast.
The scheme may now be said to be fairly under way. A new Department, the Naval Service Department, has been organised and staffed, the two training cruisers which form the nucleus of the Canadian Navy have reached the Dominion; and a College for training officers for the fleet is in course of formation. So far, construction of the remaining cruisers and destroyers (which are to be built in Canada) has not been begun, and it can be readily understood that work of this kind, which is novel to the Dominion, requires careful consideration and preparation. But no doubt this will soon be taken in hand and brought to a satisfactory conclusion.