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Jo-Anne McLaren was upset when she found out the Canadian Coast Guard ship that bears her son’s name was in trouble.
“I was devastated; it felt like Mark was being attacked,” she told me in a Facebook message.
“This vessel has his name, everything in it has his name on it. My hero, my son gave his life so others could have the life they have.”
Early Saturday, someone entered the Canadian Maritime Engineering shipyard in Sambro Head and cut two cables and a chain securing the cradle holding the CCGS Corporal McLaren MMV in place.
With the restraints cut, the cradle rolled down the rails into the water, knocking the ship off its blocks. Water poured in through openings left by equipment removed for the refit, partially flooding the boat.
The Corporal McLaren is the sixth of nine Hero-class mid-shore patrol vessels built by Halifax Shipyard. The ship is named after Cpl. Mark Robert McLaren, who was killed Dec. 5, 2008, in Afghanistan. He was awarded the Medal of Military Valour for crawling through enemy fire to aid his team’s badly injured interpreter during the ambush that would take his life and the lives of two others.
To the McLaren family, seeing the ship on its side was as if something happened to their son again. They are very proud of the ship that bears his name.
Jo-Anne and Alan McLaren attended the launching of the vessel in 2013, and took part in the commissioning ceremony in 2014. With the damage occurring between Remembrance Day and the anniversary of his death, it couldn’t happen at a worse time of year for the family.
Police are calling it an act of vandalism, but under the Criminal Code, deliberately damaging a Canadian ship constitutes an act of piracy. As the ship is used for public safety, charges of sabotage could also be applied.
It seems likely that this event was targeted. The required tools suggest premeditation, and not simply a crime of opportunity.
The Corporal McLaren was hauled out at the shipyard on Nov. 6 for a scheduled maintenance period that was to be complete by Dec. 10. The refit contract was valued at $515,944. The CME facility in Sambro Head has previously done work for Halifax Transit, the Royal Canadian Navy and several other commercial and government clients.
The amount of damage to the ship has not been determined. It is known that water entered the hull, which was not punctured. Salt water likely will have damaged the engines and electrical systems.
The refit contract requires the yard to carry $10 million in liability insurance. If the damage exceeds that amount, then the government is left to cover the remainder.
The current salvage plan is for divers to seal the openings, pump out the water and tow the refloated vessel to the government wharf in Sambro. Once the marine railway is fixed, the ship will be hauled out again and repaired, along with completion of the scheduled work.
Jo-Anne McLaren is anxiously waiting. The McLaren name belongs in service to Canada.