Bon Accord celebrates The Freedom of the City ceremony

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It was a proud moment for Randy Boyd, Bon Accord mayor, as the 1 Combat Engineer Regiment was granted the Freedom of the City of Bon Accord on June 3.

“We finally had this opportunity and it’s during my last term and it’s just, wow what a way to do a full circle,” he said.

Boyd served in 1 Combat Engineer Regiment from 1999 to 2004, and completed two tours in Bosnia. He began as a master corporal and was promoted to warrant officer before retiring.

He says for the last couple of years the town has applied to host the formal ceremony.

“It was emotional pride,” he says, “We have the honour of doing this, of bestowing the Freedom of the City of Bon Accord on the regiment. It’s rare when you get to see this and the community is really honoured to have them as well.”

Boyd says about one third of Bon Accord has served, or is currently serving, in the military. Boyd also acknowledged that the 1 Combat Engineer has participated in the town’s Remembrance Day ceremonies.

The ceremony began with a military parade starting at the Bon Accord arena, where members from the regiment marched to the town office.

Once at the office the regiment was handed a plaque recognizing the relationship between the town and the 1 Combat Engineer Regiment.

Alex McCarthy, 26, attended the event to watch her roommate and friend march in the parade.

“It was inspirational and moving, brought a little tear to my eye when they were talking about freedom,” she says. “It’s awesome that we can live in such a free country and such a free town.”

For Ryan Smith, Lieutenant-Colonel and commanding officer of the 1 Combat Engineer Regiment, it was a special day.

“I was quite happy with the ceremony. This is the first time that I had to do it myself and it’s the second time I’ve participated in it,” he says.

Military parades and The Freedom of the City go back to 15th century England and remain an important tradition in combat units of the Canadian Army.

“It’s a very old tradition,” he says. “It used to be related to when armies would march around through the countryside and they would need billeting for a night. Of course the town would be concerned for the security with soldiers running around willy-nilly.”

As a result, the city’s chief constable would demand a reason that the soldiers needed to enter the city. If the reason was valid, the chief constable would lead the unit commander to the chambers of city council to discuss it further.

If the councillors trusted the chief constable then a privilege was granted, called “The Freedom of the City.” This allowed the unit to enter with their weapons, beating drums and waving flags.

Boyd says he’s happy the event worked out.

“We’ve applied for this a few times over the last two years but timing it never worked out. The event was very impressive and it was an honour for me and I’m sure an honour for the community.”

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Dayla Lahring

Dayla Lahring joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2017. She writes about business, health, general news and features. She also contributes photographs.