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RHLI Receive Freedom of the City of Burlington
In December of 1862, The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry (RHLI) came officially into being, known then as the 13th Battalion, in Hamilton, Ontario . Fast forward to 2003, and the RHLI has been given approval to create a new company in the adjoining city of Burlington, ON as part of Land Force Reserve Restructuring. Zip the tape ahead a bit more and on September 18th, 2005, with ?C? Coy now active in Burlington, the RHLI - part of 31 Canadian Brigade Group - has been granted the Freedom of the City of Burlington . It's the third Freedom of the City for the RHLI (Hamilton, 1962, Stoney Creek, 1987) and the first time the City of Burlington has granted such an honour to any person or organization.
?We're pleased as a municipality to grant this historic privilege to the RHLI?, said Burlington Mayor Rob MacIsaac at a gala dinner/dance on September 17th marking the event the night before the parade. Mayor MacIsaac noted, ?The Rileys established an official presence here in the fall of 2003 as part of the federal government's decision to expand the army reserves, and since then they've really integrated themselves into the community. Economically, they have provided a good number of unique and well-paying part-time jobs to many of our young people plus significant infrastructure investment. The Freedom of the City recognizes the Riley's service to Canada and their commitment to Burlington.?
The mayor's comments were echoed by Lieutenant-Colonel Guy Smith, commanding officer of the RHLI. LCol Smith said, ?This is an honour for the RHLI. We appreciate the respect shown to the unit by the people of Burlington .? He added, the Rileys are now well-established in the city. ???C' Company in Burlington ? now has its own quarters at 3230 Fairview Street at the rear of the former Canadian Tire store. When people join the RHLI in Burlington , they can serve in their own community. There are also wider opportunities ? for example, we have Burlington soldiers who are just back from service in Afghanistan.?
Guest of honour for the dinner and parade was Lieutenant-General (Ret'd) Charles Belzile, former commander of the Army. At the start of his career, LGen Belzile commanded former Rileys in Korea after the ceasefire. He took time before the dinner to visit the City of Hamilton 's Dieppe Veterans Memorial Park, the RHLI Museum and the Officer's Mess. In his capacity of Grand President of the Royal Canadian Legion, he was reviewing officer for the Legion Day parade in Burlington the morning of the 18th. He was then special guest on the reviewing platform for the Freedom of the City parade in the afternoon.
The parade, which was viewed by hundreds of Burlington residents who have become very familiar with the RHLI as a result of local training activities and extensive media coverage, was a resounding success. It went off in time-honoured tradition, approaching City Hall with colours cased, bayonets unfixed and band silent. Halton Regional Police Chief Constable Ean Algar halted the regiment, then, after determining its intent was peaceful, Chief Algar escorted LCol Smith to the City Hall doors, which stood in for the gates to the city. After his official greeting by Mayor MacIsaac, several councillors, the deputy City Clerk, and LCol Smith returned to the Regiment and escorted Mayor MacIsaac and LGen Belzile as they inspected the immaculate soldiers and cadets, along with the band.
The inspection proved satisfactory to all, leading to the Mayor's return to the podium and the declaration of the Freedom of the City. Honorary Colonel Jim Forsyth then read out a special message of congratulations from His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Colonel-in-Chief of the Regiment, followed by a short address from LCol Smith. Then, as tradition dictated, the Regiment fixed bayonets, presented arms as the Colours were uncased, and struck up the band.
The parade then marched off, counter-marching to gain maneuvering room then marching past the saluting base and rendering honours to Mayor MacIsaac.
A tented reception following the parade saw many soldier's families on hand for refreshments, as well as members of the extended regimental family, veterans and invited guests at Spencer Smith park on the Burlington waterfront.
The RHLI are currently in an interim facility in Burlington (see ?C? Company page) but are working towards a permanent company-sized facility, potentially in conjunction with the Burlington Fire Department and/or Halton Regional Police.
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