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All aboard: Halifax launches first international fleet week

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A traditional bell ringing marked the start of Halifax’s first international fleet week, which will bring more than 1,200 navy sailors to the city.

The event invites the public to learn more about the past, present, and future of the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN).

“We wanted to demystify what we do for Canada, how we live and work at sea, and what goes on in our dockyard,” said Commodore Trevor MacLean during the official launch Thursday morning on the waterfront.

Halifax Mayor Mike Savage said the military, in particular the navy, plays a large role in the community.

“It's said that we have saltwater running in our veins and that's true,” said Savage.

Service members from the United States, Germany, Britain, and France will take part in the celebration, all of whom are “important allies” said Defence Minister Bill Blair.

The kick-off event was also an opportunity to give Blair a personal tour of Canada’s naval memorial, HMCS Sackville.

It's the last remaining allied Corvette from the Second World War, and Thursday morning the chair of the board of the Canadian Naval Memorial Trust, Bill Woodbury, was presented with a special plaque in honour of the 82-year-old vessel.

“Basically to honor Sackville and our commitment and our link, and our cooperation that dates back to the Battle of the Atlantic,” said RCN Cmdr. (Retired) Gary Reddy, commanding officer of HMCS Sackville.

Cmdr. (Ret’d) Gary Reddy is the commanding officer of HMCS Sackville.

The plaque bears steel from a British war ship from the same era, HMS Belfast, in a nod to the past during this celebration of the navy's present.

“On this jetty we have HMCS Sackville, which is the last remaining flower class corvette in the world, and on the other side of the jetty we have HMCS Moncton,” said Reddy.

“It’s the old together with the new.”

Fleet week offers a rare invitation for the public to come aboard some of the RCN’s current ships, including HMCS Moncton.

The ship’s captain says he hopes it will inspire others to embark on a naval career, and create a better understanding of the life he’s dedicated 23 years to so far.

“I would really like it if that when people come aboard, that they interact with our sailors, and that they get a feel for what it's like for a sailor to live at sea in the Royal Canadian Navy,” said Lt.-Cmdr. Carlo Amunategui.

While the week has plenty of fun activities planned – including fireworks, music, and a special rugby game – it’s also a reminder of active deployments supporting allies in Europe and the Indo-Pacific.

“We are also an important access point into the Canadian Arctic,” added MacLen, who is commander of Canadian Fleet Atlantic.

“So right now, HMCS Harry DeWolf is in the arctic, patrolling the northwest passage.”

For those in the RCN, that’s part of the reality of service at sea, based out of a city at the center of the nation's navy.

Click here for a photo gallery of images from fleet week.

For more Nova Scotia news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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