Freedom of the City is granted to a military entity that has enjoyed a long and happy relationship with a municipality. It is one of the most important honours received by a military unit.

The honour entitles the unit, for all time, to march through the city with “drums beating, colours flying and bayonets fixed”. The ceremony dates back to when cities had walls and gates that were barred to both friends and foe.

Canadian Armed forces regiment marching on Nathan Philips Square towards Toronto City Hall as they receive their Freedom of the City honour.
Canadian Navy Unit in white uniform smiles for camera beside cannon.
Trumpeters in red military coats march on Nathan Philips Square.

The Ceremony’s History

The Ceremony represents a military tradition that began in England during the 15th century and is still an important part of the traditions of the Canadian Army today.

During the War of the Roses in England, cities were constantly endangered by invading military units from one side or the other. Before a city would admit a military unit inside its walls, the Chief Constable would demand to know the reason the soldiers wished to enter the city, then escort their commander to the chambers of the city council. If the city leaders felt the unit could be trusted, it was granted the privilege known as “The Freedom of the City”. This entitled the unit to enter the city with drums beating, banners flying and weapons carried in a warlike manner. These traditional elements are represented to this day, including the role of the Chief of Police and the Mayor.

Units granted the Freedom of the City of Toronto

The following is a list of Freedoms of the City granted by the City of Toronto to units in the Canadian Armed Forces and its predecessor cities prior to amalgamation, as well as those occasions on which it was subsequently exercised.

Regiment or Unit Year(s)
32 Signal Regiment, Royal Canadian Corps of Signals 2017
Royal Canadian Dragoons 2000
32 Canadian Brigade Group 1998
HMCS York 1983, 2010
400 (City of Toronto) Squadron 1982
Toronto Scottish Regiment 1982
709 (Toronto) Communications Regiment Signals, Communications & Electronics Branch 1978, 1987, 2003
Queen’s York Rangers 1975
Queen’s Own Rifles 1975
Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery 1966
48th Highlanders of Canada 1966, 2001
7th Toronto Regiment, Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery 1966, 2016
Royal Regiment of Canada 1962, 2016