By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – Residents have an opportunity to support our military and see a centuries-old custom continuing into the modern era this Sunday. Morinville will be honouring 1 Service Battalion from CFB Edmonton with the Freedom of the City Sept. 11.
Although the ceremony dates back to the days of the Roman Empire when law forbade armies from entering a town without permission to prevent a military coup against the Roman senate, it was quite common in the medieval era for similar purposes. Today the ceremony is a civic honour bestowed upon the armed forces by a town or city to show their affection and respect for Canada’s service men and women.
Morinville Mayor Lloyd Bertschi said he is looking forward to bestowing the honour on the military. “When the army moved here a number of years ago, we were very active going out to the different bases to get the soldiers to move here,” the mayor said. “We’ve got about 400 soldiers living in our community and this [event] shows great support for them and the military.”
Morinville’s Special Events Coordinator Peggy Gilchrist said 1 Service Battalion will be given the key to the town to signify the close relationship between the two parties. The ceremony will take place in front of Civic Plaza, which will have the construction fence removed to accommodate the event.
The road in front of Civic Plaza will be barricaded to the military at the start of the ceremony, and the battalion leader will be escorted by RCMP to the door of Town Hall where he will knock on it with a sword. After receiving the Freedom of the City, the barricade will be removed and the troops will pass through, stopping to be inspected by the mayor.
“I think it’s important in a number of ways,” Gilchrist said of this weekend’s ceremony. “It creates partnerships and builds relationships back between the Town of Morinville, CFB Edmonton and the troops. There are a number of military families that live in Morinville and it’s a transitional population. They seem to be here for three or four years and then move on to the next [posting]. So we want to create an environment where they’re welcome to participate in as well.”
Gilchrist said the Freedom of the City ceremony, in addition to paying honour to our military, also creates a special bond where 1 Service Battalion adopts Morinville and is there for support in times of difficulties. “The ice storms in Quebec City are a good example,” she said. “The military are called in for major catastrophes. When a Freedom of the City is awarded to a platoon or a department, they kind of adopt the town as well.”
The festivities will continue at the Morinville Community Cultural Centre with a community barbecue prepared by 1 Service Battalion with their mobile kitchen. Additionally, an historical display on the battalion will be inside the centre and military vehicles will be on display outside. A military obstacle course will be set up for children to see if they have what it takes to be a Canadian soldier.
The Freedom of the City ceremony takes place at 10 a.m. in front of Civic Plaza on 100 Avenue.