Ottawa recognizes Army units with Freedom of the City

Photo by Sergeant D.G. Janes, Army Public Affairs

Photo by Sergeant D.G. Janes, Army Public Affairs

Steven Fouchard, Army Public Affairs ~

The City of Ottawa has shown its gratitude to local military units and cadet corps with a rare honour that saw them march through the city’s streets on Saturday, September 16.

Municipal officials in the capital granted those units Freedom of the City, a historical honour with origins in 15th-century Britain that is usually given to just one unit at a time. However, with the convergence of both Canada 150 celebrations and Canada Army Run, which took place the following day, the city extended the honour to all of the 18 military units and three cadet units it has previously honoured since the late 19th century.

Lieutenant-Colonel Christopher Jackson, Commanding Officer of the Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa (Duke of Edinburgh’s Own), which is the City of Ottawa’s official regiment, led the units in a parade.

In keeping with tradition, LCol Jackson had the additional privilege of taking a ceremonial walk up to the doors of city hall, where he received the mayor’s permission to march before leading the parade itself.

“For me personally, being asked to be the Parade Commander, having my Regimental Sergeant Major, Chief Warrant Officer Michael Lever, appointed as the Parade Sergeant-Major, and having the privilege of leading a number of distinguished Canadian Armed Forces units and cadet units is a great honour,” he said.

“The Cameron Highlanders is the city’s regiment,” LCol Jackson added. “We have always had a special attachment to Ottawa and the various communities that make up our spectacular National Capital.”

Also in attendance were former Commander Canadian Army Lieutenant-General (Retired) Andrew Leslie, now a sitting Member of Parliament; Major-General Simon Hetherington, Commander Canadian Army Doctrine and Training Centre Headquarters; Major-General Paul Bury, Chief Reserves and Cadets; and Colonel Richard Goodyear, Commandant of Canadian Forces Support Unit Ottawa.

The practice of granting military units Freedom of the City began during the Wars of the Roses, a series of conflicts between powerful British family dynasties with competing claims to the throne. City officials of the time would meet with unit commanders to determine whether or not their intentions were friendly.

If so, the unit would be granted Freedom of the City and thus had permission to march through the streets to the beat of their drums, flying their colours and with bayonets fixed.

The City of Ottawa granted its first Freedom of the City to the 14th Battalion of Kingston in 1894.

Current Mayor Jim Watson has given the honour to five units, including 3rd Battalion, The Royal Regiment in 1999, and 33 Canadian Brigade Group in 2013. Last year, it was given to the Governor General’s Foot Guards and 7 Intelligence Company (Ottawa).

“The Freedom of the City Parade is a fitting way to mark Canada’s 150th anniversary, while highlighting our residents’ trust in our local military,” said Mr. Watson. “The ceremony is a great opportunity to recognize and thank the military troops that have proudly served and represented not only Canada, but Ottawa specifically.”

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