CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - Skye Watson knows she wouldn’t be the person she is today without the Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps (RCSCC).
The 17-year-old Dromore resident, who always had an interest in sailing, joined the 23 RCSCC (Kent) in Charlottetown when she was 12 years old after hearing from friends who were involved in the program.
It’s a program that Chief Petty Officer 1st Class Watson has flourished in during the past six years.
This past year, she has been deployed to England and France to work on a tall ship for three weeks and was one of 50 sailors across Canada selected to compete in the Canadian Olympic Regatta Kingston 2017 National Sea Cadets Sailing Regatta last month.
The experience also has her poised for a promising start to her career, with hopes of attending the Canadian Coast Guard College next year.
“Cadets really helped me make that decision,” said Watson, who now coaches sailing and marksmanship to other cadets. “It’s been one of the greatest opportunities I’ve had, and I wouldn’t be the person I am today without cadets. It’s given me so many other opportunities.”
However, she won’t be leaving before spending one last milestone year with the RCSCC.
With 2018 marking the 100th anniversary of the RCSCC, the corps will be recognized by the City of Charlottetown during a special ceremony today.
Mayor Clifford Lee and members of council will grant Freedom of the City to P.E.I.’s Corps, which also includes Rustico’s 323 RCSCC and Summerside’s 85 RCSCC.
About 75 cadets will march from the provincial government complex parking lot to city hall at approximately 10:30 a.m. for a ceremony open to the public.
Freedom of the City is the highest honour a city can bestow, and the historic tradition signifies a city’s trust in a military unit, organization or dignitary. It serves as an official welcome, granting the group the freedom to parade or visit the city at leisure.
“It’s an ancient tradition… it’s a great honour to be commanding officer during the 100th anniversary and an honour to accept this Freedom of the City,” said Commanding Officer Terry Scott.
The ceremony will be followed by a 100th anniversary dinner that evening with dignitaries, including Earle Corn, president of the Navy League of Canada.
Watson participated in a Freedom of the City ceremony while working at a cadet camp in Annapolis Royal this summer.
However, this one being closer to home will make it a little more special.
“It’s a great opportunity definitely for showcasing what we do in sea cadets because I feel it’s not seen as much as it should be for how great of a program it is,” said Watson.
The ceremony will be the latest in a lengthy, strong relationship between the city and RCSCC.
An early form of the cadets, created by the Navy League of Canada and called the Boys Naval Brigade, was in Charlottetown in 1917 to teach young men about military life.
“Charlottetown was very early in starting a cadet program,” said Scott. “Charlottetown definitely has a very strong military history and naval military history.”
Scott said the Charlottetown Corps’ approximate 25 cadets are also excited about the ceremony, noting that they were previously awarded a special 100th anniversary pin to wear on their uniforms.
“It was a pretty neat honour,” said Scott, adding how military uniforms rarely change. “So, it’s quite a thing when something new shows up on your uniform.”
Scott said the RCSCC instills a lot of beneficial attributes into youth.
“Pride in themselves, pride in their dress and deportment. Citizenship is a big part,” said Scott, adding that within a few years older cadets become mentors to younger members. “Leadership is a big thing… (cadets) learn quickly to pay back to the cadet unit.”
Many who join the group keep returning. That includes Master Seaman David Chen, who joined about two and a half years ago and hasn’t looked back.
“I think I’ll keep doing cadets until I’m old enough to go to university. It’s fun, the sailing, the summer camps. It’s great,” said Chen.
It’s an endeavour that Watson would recommend to anyone.
“Definitely. Even if they don’t like sailing, if you just want to make friends and have a good time. It’s only one day per week and it’s definitely worth it.”