Iqaluit councillors unanimously reject Navy offer of historical marker

Council gets worked up over reference to ‘HMCS Frobisher Bay’


Iqaluit city council told the Canadian Navy to take a long walk off a short pier Tuesday, all over the offer of a commemorative photo.

What did councillors have against the same sort of historical marker that will be handed out to more than 320 municipalities across Canada as part of the Navy’s 100th birthday?

The Navy wants to give the city a photo and plaque commemorating the naval radio station that operated here from 1957 to 1966. In a letter to council, the Navy refers to the “HMCS Frobisher Bay,” which councillors assumed is a warship.

Naval officials wrote the city to set up a date they could come to Iqaluit and present the city with the gift.

What the Navy doesn’t make clear is that every naval facility, whether it’s a ship or a station on dry land, is preceded with “HMCS,” the acronym that stands for “Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship.”

Seven civilians could be excused for not knowing that obscure twist to military policy. But the confusion prompted councillors to attempt to outdo one another to see who could most emphatically state that the city is now named Iqaluit, not Frobisher Bay.

“Frobisher Bay is a body of water. It’s no longer used to describe the city of Iqaluit,” said Coun. Mat Knickelbein. “It harkens back to a time in history I think we’ve gone past.”

Councillors Romeyn Stevenson, Mary Wilman and Natsiq Alainga-Kango echoed Knickelbein’s sentiment.

Coun. Simon Nattaq said hunters are complaining that increased Navy traffic from military exercises like Operation Nanook is driving seals out of Frobisher Bay.

With Mayor Elisapee Sheutiapik absent due to illness, councillors voted 7-0 to take a hike, much to the frustration of John Hussey, the city’s chief administrative officer.

“It’s part of the history of this community,” Hussey said. “I don’t think it’s any reflection on the City of Iqaluit as it is today.”

Navy spokesman Maj. Sylvain Chalifour seemed unfazed by the rebuke in a telephone interview from Naval Reserve Headquarters near Quebec City.

“It may simply be a mix-up,” he said, explaining the references to HMCS Frobisher Bay, and pointing out that the text of the plaque refers to the fact the city is now called Iqaluit.

Chalifour said the Navy would like to schedule a ceremony some time before May, 2010. But only if they’re wanted.

“We won’t give anything to a city who doesn’t want to receive it,” he said.

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