Honorary Aide-de-Camp, privilege and honour

Lieutenant Colonel Heather McClelland
Lieutenant Colonel Heather McClelland. Photo: The Lookout

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Peter Mallett, The Lookout

When the Commanding Officer of 11 (Victoria) Field Ambulance began her 35-year military career, she never imagined herself working alongside one of Queen Elizabeth’s vice-regal representatives.

But that is what happened last April when reservist Lieutenant-Colonel Heather McClelland was named an Honorary Aide-de-Camp to the newly appointed Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, Janet Austin.

LCol McClelland says the importance of the appointment and its significance really hit home for her during this year’s New Year’s Day Levée ceremony.

“I am so privileged and honoured to be in this position,” she said in the days following the ceremony. “This appointment truly allows me to further show my respect for the monarchy and to stand on guard for Canada.”

A nurse by profession, she was one of six personal assistants to Lieutenant-Governor Janet Austin at the Government House New Year’s reception that was attended by over 1,400 guests. The annual ceremony can trace its roots to the 17th Century, and the tradition lives on today in Canada’s provincial capitals and at military bases.

LCol McClelland, 54, is one of 28 Honorary Aides-de-Camp across British Columbia who serve LGov Austin at official functions throughout the year. LCol McClelland typically attends one or two events per month depending on her personal schedule and the events schedule sent out by staff at Government House.

LCol McClelland rose through the ranks of her reserve unit of the Royal Canadian Medical Services after beginning her military service in 1984. Starting out as a Private Medic, she became a Warrant Officer 17 years later, taking her commission in 1999. In 2015, she was appointed Commanding Officer of 11 (Victoria) Field Ambulance, and then a year later, took up the post of Commanding Officer, 12 (Vancouver) Field Ambulance.

She was nominated to the position of Honorary Aide-de-Camp by a former commanding officer. She says the formality and protocol of the Office of Lieutenant Governor are part of Canada’s history and tradition, but those who hold the position are often exceptional people who have accomplished many milestones in their professional careers and through community commitments.

“Lieutenant governors are engaging and humble people; there is no pretentiousness and they are exceptional socially conscious servants of the people,” says LCol McClelland. “She [LGov Austin] is a champion of social justice, strongly believes in reconciliation for First Nations people, and is interested in preserving democracy. It is amazing just to be in her presence and listen to her passions, which makes me feel more engaged and passionate about these same things.”

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