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Article / April 28, 2015

Hannah Murphy, Western Sentinel

On April 23rd, the City of Medicine Hat granted Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Suffield and British Army Training Unit Suffield (BATUS) Freedom of the City. This honour was exceptionally significant as the City of Medicine Hat granted Freedom of the City to both CFB Suffield and BATUS simultaneously; highlighting the close relationship the units share with each other and the city.

Marching through the city with drums beating, colours flying, and bayonets fixed,  Freedom of the City is an ancient honour granted by a municipality to only trusted members of the community or a visiting celebrity or dignitary. Historically speaking, coming into a city with weapons held and bayonets fixed would have been an act of aggression at best, if not outright war.

 “The City of Medicine Hat has been a committed supporter of the Canadian Armed Forces and a great friend to CFB Suffield,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Sean Hackett, Commander CFB Suffield. “The granting of this Freedom of the City is a high honour. It is a very tangible demonstration of the degree of trust, confidence and connection felt by the citizens of Medicine Hat towards all of us in the military who are proud to call the region home.” 

A Freedom of the City parade is traditionally the only time a military unit, in peacetime, will march with bayonets fixed. The two units exercised this right by marching through the streets of Medicine Hat with National Flags flying, led by Lieutenant-Colonel Sean Hackett, Commander CFB Suffield, and Colonel Jim Landon, Commander BATUS, as crowds cheered and applauded.

This gesture from the City of Medicine Hat acknowledges the support and contribution of the Canadian and British Armed Forces to the City. It is a formal demonstration of the bond between the units and the citizens of Medicine Hat.

 “This honour really shows the warm welcome that the British Army has become used to here. We absolutely depend on the support of the people of Medicine Hat to make our training at Suffield possible,” noted Colonel Jim Landon, Commander BATUS, adding,  “We stayed here because we feel welcome and wanted. Exercising this traditional and formal Freedom of the City, as we have today, demonstrates the warmth and strength of the bond between BATUS and Medicine Hat.”  

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