OTTAWA – The Canadian Army is all for its soldiers raising a glass to toast upcoming milestones, as long as nobody thinks there’s a product endorsement going on.
And anyone in the general public who would like a sip, or wee dram, of the special spirits will remain thirsty unless someone in uniform is willing to share.
National Defence recently issued new guidelines to military units, including the army’s most storied regiments, to govern the production and sale commemorative beer, wine and spirits for the splash of celebrations expected next year.
In 2014, the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, the Royal 22e Regiment, Royal Montreal Regiment and Regiment du Hull will all mark the 100 years since their formation.
Other even older units are currently in the midst of the 150th anniversary this year, including the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment, the Princess of Wales Own Regiment, and the Lincoln and Welland Regiment.
“In the recent past, various alcoholic beverages were produced to commemorate regimental anniversaries,” Lt.-Gen. Peter Devlin, the army’s commander was told in a recent briefing. “Many units and regiments are contemplating fund raising efforts featuring the debatable use of (intellectual property),” such as cap badges, regimental colours, and the Crown.
The angst was driven by the production and online sale of Black Watch Whisky, which featured the famous unit’s badge, armoury and a member in highland dress. As many as “600 of these bottles of whisky could be an unauthorized use of Crown (intellectual property).”
Brewing a special batch of beer, wine — or distilling whisky — “is very complex, which makes it extremely difficult for regiments and their foundations to remain within the appropriate legal, ethical and historical/heritage boundaries,” said a Nov. 3, 2011 briefing note.
A spokeswoman for the army, Colleen McGrann, said on Friday the department issued clear guidelines. Those new rules include limiting the sale of commemorative alcohol to within the military, and requiring associations to ask for permission to use regimental logos, as well as using established brewers.
The military spent many years trying to reclaim a squeaky clean image following the dark days of the 1990s Somalia scandal, and the briefing displayed how hyper-vigilant it has become.
Officials within National Defence stressed about possible copyright infringement and civil and criminal liability if something happened to someone using “branded beverages.” They worried about the optics, the possibility of regimental reputations being tarnished, and of the publicity nightmare that would follow potential incidents.
Defence communications staff foresaw having to conduct broad-based “damage control,” should something go wrong.
Paul Hale, president of the Southwest Ontario branch of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry Association, said he’s been working with a Niagara-on-the-Lake winery for the last few years and supports the army being cautious, and recognizes images can quickly be appropriated in today’s e-commerce world.
“I understand and support the fact that they are trying to ensure that Regimental badges and logos are used with respect and not used by offshore agencies for personal profit,” he said Saturday.
Since he started the fundraising initiative, his branch has sold 1,600 bottles of wine, but added that some battalions with the regiment are more interested than others in the special spirits.