When Master Seaman Francis Legare kissed his partner Corey Vautour today in Victoria, a little bit of history was made.
A time-honoured tradition at Navy homecomings, the first kiss allows one lucky sailor to be first off the ship for the long-awaited smooch with a loved one. For the first time, the happily reunited was a male same-sex couple.
As the crowd cheered, Legare stepped off HMCS Winnipeg and greeted Vautour, who was carrying a handmade sign saying ‘Welcome Home Sailor’, with a kiss and huge embrace. While the first kiss has happened between two women before, this is the first time it has taken place between two men.
Legare, who is originally from Quebec, bought tickets for the draw that decides who gets the first kiss and to his surprise, won.
“I just bought a ticket because all the money goes to charity, I wasn’t thinking I was going to win,” said Legare, who was away for almost nine months.
“I think it’s wonderful, the Canadian Armed Forces embraces people whatever their preferences are,” said HMCS Winnipeg Cmdr. Jeff Hutchinson.
“I think it’s great.”
Rear Admiral Gilles Couturier echoed Hutchinson by saying the Navy has had to evolve to not only reflect, but represent current day society.
“We have to… we reflect society and we recruit across all of the spectrums of society,” Couturier said.
“If we don’t adapt, we won’t have any sailors joining. So if that’s what society is and that’s the sailor’s choice, we respect that. It’s all positive in our perspective.”
HMCS Winnipeg, which has a crew of 250, docked in Victoria after touring the Caribbean and eastern Pacific for almost nine months.
The ship also made headlines after three crew members were detained by Japanese authorities during a port visit in Tokyo.
Two of the people are military members and one is a civil employee. All were detained for the alleged use of a controlled substance. Tokyo police have released one of the military members, while the other two have been charged with use of a controlled substance.
The Navy says it will work with Canadian Consular officials and Japanese authorities throughout this process.
~ with files from Amy Judd