1 CER exercises its freedom

“Edmonton salutes each and every one of you for all that you have done, and that you will do. Thank you very much.” - Stephen Mandel, Mayor

Aspen Gainer Public Affairs 1 Area Support Group. Western Sentinel 9 June 2011

“Who goes there?”

“Your Worship, I am Lieutentant Colonel Flint and I am the Commanding Officer of 1 Combat Engineer Regiment. I hereby request permission to exercise Freedom of the City of Edmonton.”

“March on.”

And so began the Freedom of the City ceremony on May 26 at City Hall in Edmonton.

Following the initial march and formal greeting, Mayor Stephen Mandel inspected the soldiers of 1 Combat Engineer Regiment (1 CER) to make sure the soldiers were worthy of the right to live as free citizens within the City of Edmonton. He was escorted by Edmonton Police Chief David Korol and Sergeant Major Adrian Marr, accompanied by LCol Mark Flint and the RSM, Chief Warrant Officer John Russell.

After inspecting the troops, Mayor Mandel addressed the soldiers and the gathered crowd.

“This traditional ceremony gives us the opportunity to demonstrate how grateful we are for your bravery and your dedication, for the sacrifices you make. We are proud that you call Edmonton your home.

“For all you have done both at home and abroad we are honoured to bestow 1 Combat Engineer Regiment their right to affirm their freedom of the city. Edmonton salutes each and every one of you for all that you have done, and that you will do. Thank you very much.”

Freedom of the City is one of the greatest honours that a marching unit can receive from a municipality. LCol Flint acknowledged this honour bestowed on the Regiment by gifting Mayor Mandel with a framed photo of soldiers from 1 CER in Afghanistan, emblazoned with the phrase: “Sappers lead the way.”

“I would like to thank the great people in the city of Edmonton for their support in everything we do,” said LCol Flint. “And thanks to the city leadership for allowing us this privilege to reaffirm our freedom of the city.”

The last Freedom of the City ceremony was exercised in 2003. For many of the soldiers, this was their first time participating in the tradition.

“It’s great to be part of the tradition,” said Spr Luke Gabriel. “And it’s refreshing to have your work appreciated. It’s nice to know that someone somewhere appreciates what we do, not just for the city and our country, but for the world.”

1 CER is a busy unit these days. They recently deployed soldiers to help with the floods in Manitoba. Some of the specialized skills learned by combat engineers are perfectly geared towards flood relief: bridge building, sandbagging and shovelling, to name a few.

The unit is also in the process of deploying about 150 more soldiers to help close the CF mission in Kandahar, Afghanistan. One of their tasks will be to help dismantle heavy equipment and prepare it for transport to Canada.

While Edmonton’s Freedom of the City ceremony is more symbolic than necessary in current times, the tradition helps keep 1 CER grounded at home in Edmonton no matter where it’s soldiers are deployed.

With files from the City of Edmonton

History of ‘Freedom of the City’

Files Courtesy Of The City Of Edmonton

One of the greatest honours a marching unit can receive is the granting of the Freedom of the City, a traditional means for a municipality to honour a unit of the Canadian Forces. This granting is a private matter between the civic officials and the unit concerned, and the power to grant this symbolic freedom rests with the municipal authorities. Several Regiments and Units have been granted Freedom of the City in Canada in recognition of their service; a reflection of the esteem with which a city’s citizenry regard the Unit.

The parade on May 26 was an example of a military tradition which began in England during the 15th century and which is still an important part of the traditions of the combat units of the Canadian Army today.

During the War of the Roses in England, cities were constantly endangered by marauding military units from one side or another. Before a city would admit a military unit inside its walls, the chief constable would demand to know the reason the soldiers wished to enter the city and then escort their commander to the chambers of the city council.

If the city leaders felt the unit could be trusted, they granted the unit the privilege known as “Freedom of the City.” This entitled the unit to enter the city with drums beating, banners flying and weapons carried in a warlike manner.

The same rituals of long ago are seen today whenever a unit of the Canadian Forces is honoured by a city.

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