Canada’s top soldier paid tribute to the 300 crewmembers departing Halifax aboard HMCS Iroquois on Saturday, throwing in cheerful hockey asides and jokes about the country’s shopping habits.
Facing a crowd of hundreds of sailors and their families on the jetty beside the ship, Gen. Rick Hillier said he stands amongst hundreds of “great Canadians.”
“And there are two Canadian teams left in the NHL playoffs,” he quipped, rousing laughter from the crowd. “Unfortunately one of them is not the Toronto Maple Leafs.”
Hillier, who announced last week he will step down as chief of defence staff on July 1, described how proud he is of Canada’s service people.
“You know, you allow me to speak truth to power when I say that the national treasures in our country wear Canada’s national uniform and the flag on their left shoulder.”
After the ship left, Hillier said interacting with Canada’s service people is what enabled him to stay in the job since he was appointed in February 2005.
“That’s one of the reasons I accepted the job of chief of defence staff to start with and probably the only reason I kept it — to be able to work with those great young people. And I will tell you that’s the part that I will miss when I depart. But I’ll support them from the outside, too.”