On Saturday, September 16, the City of Ottawa will host a Freedom of the City parade honouring the 18 military and three cadet units that have been granted Freedom of the City by the City of Ottawa.
Members of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry await inspection from Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson on Saturday, September 20, 2014. The Mayor granted the regiment the right to exercise its Freedom of the City for its 100th anniversary
So, what is the Freedom of the City anyways?
The granting of Freedom of the City by a municipality is one of the most esteemed honours to bestow on a military unit. The tradition came from 15th Century England where military units would need to seek permission before entering a City. The city constable and council would then determine whether the unit was trustworthy. If so, they would be granted Freedom of the City. This designation entitled the unit to, “march through the street with drums beating, colours flying and bayonets fixed.”
Members of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry march through the street with drums beating, colours flying and bayonets fixed
In modern times, the honour is used by a municipal council on behalf of its community`s citizens to recognize the long-standing service or exceptional performance of a military unit either at home or overseas. The City of Ottawa has granted Freedom the City to 18 military and three cadet units. The first was granted to the 14th Battalion of Kingston by then Mayor, George Cox.
How is a joint exercising of Freedom of the City different?
By holding a full joint exercising, the City is inviting back all 18 units and three cadet units to parade as one. While many cities have granted Freedom of the City or allowed a particular unit to exercise its Freedom of the City, it is a very rare occasion for a municipality to honour all its former units on one parade.
“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 Mayor Jim 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.”
Check out the full joint exercising of Freedom of the City Ceremony on Saturday, September 16 at 9 a.m. at Ottawa City Hall. The event will take place in front of the Heritage Building on Elgin Street.