Montreal-based Royal Canadian Navy unit honoured on 100th anniversary


The heart of Old Montreal came to a standstill Saturday morning for a very special ceremony. A Canadian armed forces unit with a rich history and profound links to the city was honoured on the occasion of its 100th anniversary

Dozens of  Royal Canadian Navy reservists from Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Donnacona marched along Notre Dame from Place d’Armes to City Hall in a Freedom of the City parade.

“The relationship is very important to us,” said Cmdr. Louis-Phillippe Trudel. “We’re a microcosm basically, of the population. Canadians, Montrealers, from all walks of life come and join the unit representing all the backgrounds, representing different education, different history, different religions, different languages.”

HMCS Donnacona is the oldest naval reserve in Canada, and the parade took place to mark 100 years of it operating in Montreal.

Freedom of the City is a tradition dating back hundreds of years in which a city with a long history of harmonious partnership with a particular military unit allows soldiers to march through the streets bearing real rifles, bayonets and all.

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“The city lets it happen out of trust and respect. They know that the sailors and soldiers are there in symbiosis and to protect,” Trudel explained.

HMCS Donnacona’s rich history includes training 20,000 armed forces members that fought in the Battle of the Atlantic during the Second World War, but they’re also very proud of their work here at home. They offered key support during flooding in 2011, 2017 and 2019. They also helped out in long-term care homes and vaccination campaigns during the COVID-19 pandemic, and recently headed north to battle forest fires.

“Any time that Montreal’ has needed help, our sailors raise their hands,” said Trudel.

When the marched arrived at city hall, they underwent a ceremonial inspection from the president of Montreal’s city council, Martine Musau-Muele. She was a member of the Canadian navy for eight years.

“Part of the person I am today has a lot to do with how I was trained and prepared to serve in my community through the forces and through the navy, so I have to say that there is a great sense of pride this morning,” she told Global News.

As part of the ceremony, the commanding officer knocked on the door of city hall and asked for the Freedom of the City, which was granted by Musau-Muele.

“There is a great symbolism behind it. The meaning is very much entrenched in our culture and our traditions,” she said.

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HMCS Donnacona received Freedom of the City in 1985, had it renewed in 2003, and now again in 2023. It’s a bond that will endure for many years to come.


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