Freedom of the City

The Freedom of the City, the highest award conferred by the City of Victoria, is reserved for individuals who have brought recognition to Victoria through their achievements. It is also conferred upon military units.

The City of Victoria began recognizing individuals with the Freedom of the City Award in 1927, after petitioning the Provincial Government to make an addition to the Municipal Act. The Municipal Act was amended on March 7, 1927 to read:

"For the purpose of bestowing honours upon any person distinguished for national or local services, it shall be lawful for the Council of any city municipality to confer, by resolution passed by unanimous vote of all the members of the Council, the freedom of the city on such person."

Recipients of the award are recognized during a special ceremony at Council, which can comprise twenty-three parts, including of an address by the Mayor, a vote, taking of the Declaration and signing of the Roll of Freedom, march of colours (military) and taking the salute (military). Recipients also sign their names in the Mayor's Visitor's Book.

The freedom of the city relates back to the medieval term "freeman", meaning someone who was not the property of a feudal lord and who enjoyed privileges such as the right to earn money and own land. These were traders, merchants, and craftsmen, who were identified as "those responsible for managing the City for the Crown". They had the right to set up the local court and the ruling council of the city -- indeed only freemen could be elected to the Council, and the electorate was confined to freemen.

The Freedom is now an honorary award, with few rights other than to have one's name appear at the front of the voter's list, to be able to vote in Victoria, and to run for office.

The practice of granting freedom of the city to military units has more recent origins. The military tradition of troops being granted Freedom of Entry to the City originates from a custom first observed in the cities of London and Edinburgh in the 17th century, when "the right, title, privilege, honour and distinction of marching on ceremonial occasions with bayonets fixed, drums beating, bands playing and colours flying" was first accorded to the Town Guard.

Recipient Date / Reason / History
Bennett, William Andrew Cecil
P.C., LL.D., D.Pol.Sc., K.St. J.
Date: August 18, 1970
Reason: For service to the Province of B.C. and to the City of Victoria
History: Elected to the Legislature 1941, re-elected 1945, 1949, 1952, 1953, 1956, 1960, 1963 and 1966. Minister of Finance and President of the Great Eastern Railway.  Premier of B.C., 1952-1972
Butchart, Robert Pim Date: June 19, 1928
Reason: Eminent public service
History: Mr. Butchart was a pioneer in the manufacture of Portland Cement in Canada. With his wife Jenny started the Butchart Gardens
H.M.C.S. Malahat Date: April 23, 1983
Reason: In celebration of 70 years of continuous service
History: H.M.C.S. Malahat is descended from the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve which was established at H.M.S. Dockyard in August 1913
Helmcken, Ainslie James
[City Archivist]
Date: April 13, 1984
Reason: For outstanding contribution to the City's historical wealth as one of its leading historians
History: Ainslie Helmcken was the Victoria City Archivist for 18 years, and gained a reputation for his insights into the City's past and for his energetic preservation of the city's past
Holmes, Henry Cuthbert
M.A., J.P., F.R.I., F.R.S.A.
[Major]
Date: Was to be June 20, 1968 but Major Holmes died in May
Reason: Eminent public service
History: President of Pemberton-Holmes, Victoria City Council, 1926-1927
Maritime Command Pacific Date: May 4, 1985
Reason: To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the establishment of naval service in Canada and for exemplary service to the community, both in war and peace
Mayhew, Robert Wellington
P.C., LL.D.
Date: October 13, 1966
Reason: Eminent public service
History: Bought the Sidney Rubber Roofing Co. Ltd. in 1912 became one of Victoria's largest businesses. He served on Oak Bay City Council for two years, was Reeve for three and was named Freeman of Oak Bay in 1968. He was an MP from 1937-1952 and was also Canada's first Ambassador to Japan
McKinnon, Archie Date: June 21, 1963
Reason: In recognition and appreciation of his fine qualities of character and personality, god citizenship, unselfishness and outstanding services to the community
History: 50 years of service to the YMCA, and to Victoria, B.C. and Canada as a Physical training coach. Canadian diving coach, 1932 Olympics, track coach 1936 Olympics, diving coach 1948 Olympics and swimming coach 1952 Olympics
Pearkes, George Randolph
[Major-General, The Honourable V.C., P.C., D.S.O., C.B., C.D. Lieutenant-Governor of B.C. 1960-68]
Date: November 19, 1965
Reason: Outstanding military service to his country
Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry (Third Battalion) Date: June 15, 1974
Reason: Regiment's Diamond Jubilee
Ross, Frank Mackenzie
[The Honourable, C.M.G., M.C., LL.D 19th. Lieutenant-Governor of B.C.]
Date: February 5, 1959
Reason: In recognition and appreciation of his fine qualities of mind and personality and the eminent public service rendered by him to the City of Victoria and the Province of British Columbia
History: Industrial and financial career, in shipbuilding, steel fabricating, shipping, natural gas production and the operating of department stores
Royal Roads Military College Date: May 11, 1986
Reason: For outstanding military service to the community
History: RRMC has been an integral part of the development of the City of Victoria since 1940 and has an exemplary record of service to the community, both in war and peace
The 5th. (B.C.) Field Battery, Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery Date: November 4, 1979
Reason: For 100 years of continuous service under its present and antecedent.
History: Directly descended from the Victoria Battery of Garrison Artillery formed in 1878 due to the possibility of attack from Russian warships. From 1878 to 1956 the primary role of Victoria's militia artillerymen was always the defence of Victoria and Esquimalt from seaborne attack
The Canadian Scottish Regiment (Princess Mary's) Date: June 6, 1964
Reason: To celebrate the 75th anniversary and for an outstanding and distinguished record of active and local service
History: The Regiment was formed from the 88th Regiment Victoria Fusiliers and the 50th Gordon Highlanders in March 1920. The Colonel-in-Chief of the regiment is H.R.H. Princess Alexandra
Thomas, Bert Owen Date: July 16, 1955
Reason: Was the first person to swim from Port Angeles, Washington to Victoria, B.C.
Note: Never formally accepted
Willingdon, Thomas Viscount
G.C.S.I., G.C.M.G., G.C.I.E., C.B.E [The Rt. Hon., Governor General of Canada 1926-31]
Date: March 9, 1927
Reason: In recognition of the eminent public service rendered by His Excellency to the Empire