Plans are beginning to take shape for a military ceremony recognizing the relationship between the Town of Bonnyville and 4 Wing Cold Lake.
On May 5, 180 members of the defence team, along with the 4 Wing band, will be in town as the mayor and council grant the local military unit the Freedom of the City.
“It’s never something that I take for granted, the relationships we have with the mayor and council for both Bonnyville and Cold Lake,” Col. Paul Doyle, 4 Wing Commander, told the Nouvelle last week. “Bonnyville granting the Freedom of the City, to me, is a privilege and honour. It’s something I appreciate, and all members of 4 Wing do also.”
The Freedom of the City is a ceremonial tradition that marks the trust a community has with their nearby military unit. Although its no longer a necessary right of passage, it’s a practice, particularly in the British Commonwealth, that has become more of a symbolic gesture.
“It dates back to the medieval period, when if you had a bunch of military people walking around, that didn’t necessarily always engender the trust of local citizens,” noted Doyle.
He added, “If you look towards the bottom of the proclamation, the mayor will write on the certificate saying that the Freedom of the City is given to 4 Wing Cold Lake, the right to march through the streets of Bonnyville with bayonets fixed, colours displayed, and drums beating. It obviously has a martial undertone to it, but it’s the trust and respect between the citizens and the military unit to underline how close we work and live together.”
The idea to grant the honour to 4 Wing was originally brought up at Town Council in October 1999. While that attempt to see it to fruition was unsuccessful, it was back in front of council in December 2016, when all were on board with the ceremony.
As protocol dictates, a formal letter was sent from the town to the wing commander.
During their most recent meeting, on Feb. 28, councillors were informed that the request had been accepted, and plans for the ceremony were well underway.
“The idea will be to depart from the Centennial Centre and march down the street on 50 Ave. to the provincial building. From there, we will do the ceremony,” explained Chief Warrant Officer Alain Roy, noting that it is a public affair.
“We encourage all citizens of Bonnyville to participate and to be present on the street when we do the ceremony.”
The parade will set off from the Centennial Centre around 10:30 a.m. When they arrive at the provincial building, the members of 4 Wing will come to a barrier where the Bonnyville RCMP Detachment commander will challenge the parade on its identity, before escorting the wing commander to the door of the provincial building.
Knocking on the door with the pommel of his sword, as is tradition, the wing commander requests the Freedom of the City, which is then granted by the mayor.
Doyle expressed that the ceremony formally, and publicly, solidifies the relationship that 4 Wing has with their surrounding communities. While they may be right along the boundaries of the City of Cold Lake, Doyle noted they have members that live in and frequent Bonnyville and the MD.
“We have a great relationship with Mayor Sobolewski and his council. In the fall, shortly after I came into the job, I had the opportunity to come down and talk to the reeve and council from the municipality as well… It underlines, to me, the importance that the base has to the community of the Lakeland.”
Details for the Freedom of the City are still being ironed out, including the possibility of a reception afterwards at the Centennial Centre.