10/15/2014 10:53 EDT | Updated 12/15/2014 05:59 EST

Mom of first woman killed in Afghanistan combat proud vessel named for daughter

HALIFAX - The mother of the first Canadian female officer killed in combat in the Afghanistan war proudly toured a coast guard ship named after her daughter on Wednesday.

Sally Goddard held a crisply wrapped shipyard ball cap — a gift from unionized ironworkers — as she leaned against the ship's rail and lightly touched the side of the coast guard vessel Captain Goddard.

The vessel is the latest honour to maintain the memory of her daughter, Nichola Goddard, who was killed in the Panjwaii district in a Taliban ambush. There is also a school in Calgary named after the officer, along with several charitable foundations.

Sally Goddard attended the ceremony in Halifax on Wednesday marking the official acceptance of the ship as the last of nine midshore vessels to enter the coast guard's fleet.

Nichola Goddard was an artillery officer based in Shilo, Man., but her mother said her daughter would still have been honoured to be among the few Canadian women with their names on a ship.

"The ship is the honour," said Goddard, a teacher from Charlottetown. "The end job of all these service people is the same. It's to serve and protect."

Goddard died on May 17, 2006 — a loss her mother said was "the worst thing in the world."

But she added that the military's work in Afghanistan helped Nichola's father Tim Goddard, an education professor at the University of Prince Edward Island, later participate in teacher training programs in the war-torn nation.

In May, she and her husband were given an extensive tour of the sleek new vessel in a separate launching ceremony on the eighth anniversary of her daughter's death.

Ed Hatch, the vice-president of the Unifor local, said the tradespeople at the yard are conscious of the military figures the ships they build are named after.

"The tradespeople are proud to build these ships in memory of the fallen heroes and each and every day I'm sure it's crossed their minds throughout their work," he said.

The formal acceptance of the ship was among the last steps in a $194-million program to strengthen the coast guard fleet, the federal Fisheries Department says.

Hatch said the workers are eager to turn their attention to building the arctic offshore patrol vessels Ottawa has promised. He said he's hoping a contract will be signed by late November between Irving Shipbuilding and Ottawa to build the vessels.

If there are significant delays, he's worried it might mean layoffs for the workers at the yard, he said.

Justice Minister Peter MacKay, the federal cabinet minister for Nova Scotia, said following the ceremony that efforts to finalize a contract for the construction phase of the arctic offshore patrol vessels are ongoing.

"These negotiations are complex. It's a new vessel," he said.

"Public Works is undertaking negotiations with the Irving group. ... But we remain on track and positive that we'll get a favourable outcome that will serve taxpayer's interest and ensure the Irving shipyard is treated fairly."

Kevin McCoy, the president of Irving Shipbuilding, said he's optimistic workers will be cutting steel by next fall.

"We spent the summer working through most of the contract details. There's some small things left to go but conceptually I think we're in a good place," he said, adding that he expects to receive the construction contract by January.

"All the key elements are in place for success and to start cutting steel next September."

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