On our ties to the Military

On Saturday 2 June, we celebrated the Freedom of the City parade.  In recognition of our community’s long ties to CFB Borden, I granted them the Key to the City.  I’ve had a few requests so here are my remarks from Saturday:


Base Commander Colonel Meloche, Honorary Colonel Massie, Soldiers of the Canadian Forces, MP Brown, MPP Jackson, Members of Council current and former, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is one of the sad ironies of human history that wartime, a time of unspeakable suffering, is often a time of technological and political advancement, that shape a nation.  If there is a silver lining to the horrors of war, it is that it the sacrifices made by men and women in uniform often draw together their people and forge stronger ties to “king and country”.

The impact of the war of 1812 on Barrie is inextricably tied to the Nine Mile portage.   The Nine Mile Portage was a native trail from time immemorial, and became a “highway of commerce” for fur traders and first nations in the 18th century.  On the outbreak of war in the summer of 1812, British and allied native troops captured Fort Michilimackinac, near Sault Ste. Marie, at the strategically important point where Lakes Superior, Huron, and Michigan connect.  But American forces took control of the lower great lakes, cutting supply lines to Michililmackinac in 1813.

Resupplying the fort became a critical need.  And so a mixed force of workmen, infantry, and logistics was dispatched from Kingston to march 250 miles in the winter, first by settlement roads from Kingston to York, then up Yonge Street to Holland Landing, then across frozen Lake Simcoe, to the foot of the portage in what is now downtown Barrie.  Working through the spring, they opened up the portage west of Barrie, built a small fort at the landing on the Nottawasaga River (Fort Willow), built 29 boats, and travelled hundreds of miles by boat in May 1814, successfully arriving and resupplying Michilimackinac on May 18, 1814.

Just in time.  In July, the Americans attacked the Fort.  But 300 men, half natives, half British troops, held off the more than 1,000 American attackers.  Without the supplies that had come through the new route – the Nine Mile Portage, and what would become Ross Street and Sunnidale Road through Barrie – this strategically important would almost surely have been lost.

From that time – 200 years ago – until today, the history of this City has been inextricably interwoven with the military.  From the earliest days of training at Camp Borden, and the founding of the Air Force, to today’s leading edge military facility, producing expert service personnel in many disciplines, Barrie has been home to enlisted men and officers, civilian staff and visiting students from Borden.  Base Borden is one of the City largest employers.  And its ever-growing role in the Canadian Forces is a source of pride for myself, and for the residents of Barrie.

Today, the links between Borden and Barrie are stronger than ever.  It has been a great honour and pleasure to work with Colonel Meloche over the past year and a half, to deepen the relationship between the base and the city, and in the coming months, Base Borden and the City of Barrie will begin to share not only their history, but their future, as we introduce new service partnerships in fire training and public transit.

And today, as for generations, Canadian men and women in uniform are in harm’s way, in distant lands, protecting our freedom and preserving a truly Canadian value: the responsibility to protect those who cannot protect themselves.  Let us not forget for a moment, in the midst of our celebration, that Canadians even today are making the ultimate sacrifice for their country.  And so take the opportunity today, as you meet our soldiers as they exercise the freedom of the city, please do not miss the opportunity to thank them for their service.

Next weekend we will have the occasion again to celebrate Borden’s unique history at Base Borden Days and the Canadian Forces Airshow, which will light up the skies over our region, as the second largest airshow in Canada.  But today, on the 200th anniversary of a military conflict that helped to shape our community, we celebrate the lasting ties between the City and the Base.

It is therefore my great delight to recognize this relationship through a special award never before presented by the City of Barrie.  Today, on behalf of the members of Barrie City Council, I will present the Key to the City to Canadian Forces Base Borden.  The key is quite heavy, but to make it even harder to lose, we’ve put it in this frame with an inscription and before I present it to the Base Commander, I will read the message:


I will call upon Colonel Louis Meloche, Commander, Canadian Forces Base Borden, to accept the key on behalf of the Base.


The Mayor and Council of the City of Barrie hereby present

The Key to the City


Canadian Forces Base Borden

To acknowledge and express its gratitude to the brave Men and Women of the Canadian Forces

and to celebrate the deep and ongoing friendship between Borden and Barrie

On this very special occasion of

The Bicentennial Anniversary of the War of 1812.


June 2, 2012

Mayor J.R. Lehman

City of Barrie