Jamaican-Born Lt. Cmdr. Paul Smith first black person to Attain Commander Rank in Royal Canadian Navy History

Leutenant Commander Paul Smith

Lieutenant-Commander Paul Smith, who was born in Lionel Town, Jamaica, is a pioneer in the Royal Canadian Navy. He is the first black person to reach the rank of Commander in the Navy’s 106-year history. He received his appointment to the rank in January 2010, but only when he got his first ship in July 2014 was interest aroused about the potential history-making nature of his rank. According to Smith, he was have coffee with some naval colleagues, and someone mentioned that he might be the “first black C.O. we’ve had on a ship.” As he had already served in the Navy 23 years and sailing Canadian ships in the Caribbean for nearly the same length of time, Smith, 48, realized he had not worked under any black commanding officers. Now, research at the Directorate of History and Heritage has confirmed that Lt. Cmdr. Smith is indeed the first. He says it is an honor to represent the black community and the Canadian Navy and that he embraces the responsibility. He is currently in command of the ship HMCS Summerside, which is participating in Operation CARIBBE 2016 as part of a multinational action against drug trafficking. Smith moved to Canada with his parents at the age of seven; he lives in Halifax with his wife and two sons. In 2014, Smith had an additional brush with history when his ship joined in the search for the Franklin Expedition ships, the Erebus and Terror. While his vessel was outside the search area, it did help transport equipment used in the search once the Erebus was found.

Photo Source: Ms Peter Reed / Department Of National Defence

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Stephanie Korney