Captain Alex Grant participates in Montreal Remembrance Day ceremony
Montreal Remembrance Day – Alex Grant grew up on Ile Perrôt before joining the Canadian navy in 1981 and travelling the world. Now a navy captain, he will be briefly back in Montreal this weekend to participate in Montreal Remembrance Day ceremonies alongside crew from the HMCS Donnacona. Grant spoke to The Times this week about those ceremonies and why the navy is relevant.
“My elementary class from Edgewater School in Pincourt went to the Veteran’s Hospital in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue in the 1970s, singing Christmas carols to the patients there,” recalls Grant, now 54. “We still had World War I veterans at the hospital and it touched me to think of their sacrifices at battles like Paschendale or Vimy Ridge.”
“The Royal Canadian Navy helped change the world, too. It played a pivotal role in World War II, helping to win the Battle of the Atlantic and deliver vital supplies to England. Winston Churchill described that battle as crucial to eventually liberating Europe. But Battle of the Atlantic cost the lives of almost 2,000 Canadian navy sailors.”
“When it gets to be the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, I get emotional thinking of those sacrifices. But also two of my best friends died during military training exercises and I think of them, too. Gilles was a pilot and Nicole was one of the first female navy divers.”
Grant describes the highlight of his career as being named commanding officer of the HMCS Toronto, a 5,000 tonne Halifax-class frigate with a crew of 230 and a Sea King helicopter. But a warship is pretty versatile and its role can often be that of a first responder or helping police efforts.
“On my first trip out with the HMCS Toronto, we were called in to coordinate a rescue mission after another ship caught fire off Newfoundland. It looked like they would have to abandon ship, but we put that fire out. A few hours later, we were called to assist the RCMP who wanted backup before boarding a potentially hostile boat. Then we took some Fisheries personnel out to the Grand Banks; ice was a big concern on that trip.”
Grant relates how another mission involved relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana. The crew of his former ship, the HMCS Toronto, has also served with distinction intercepting drug smugglers in the Indian Ocean.
“Once we used our vessel to host 50 ambassadors to serve for Foreign Affairs while docked in Ireland. That’s what you get with a warship.”
Overall, Grant says the navy has been very good to him, giving him a rewarding career and paying for his university. He describes the best things about the navy as being: “the people, the adventure, and the travel.”
“The worst thing about the navy is how it’s hard on families. I am blessed with a wife who could support my absences of up to six months during tours of duty.”
The largest Montreal Remembrance Day ceremony in the Montreal area will take place at Place du Canada (René Lévesque Blvd & Peel St) on Monday, November 11 from 10:45 – 11:45 am.
Feature image: Captain Alex Grant, RCN. Photo courtesy