National Defence and the Canadian Forces

4th Canadian Division

31 Canadian Brigade Group

Presentation By Lieutenant Colonel Dan Stepaniuk, Commanding Officer, The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry
To The Hamilton City Council?s Committee of the Whole Session
20 September 2010

Mr. Mayor, City Councillors, Ladies and Gentlemen.

For 148 years the men and women of Hamilton have served this great country as militia or reserves as part of The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry. We are not a service club and we are not a community group. We are citizen soldiers. Over the next few minutes I will place the Regiment into context as soldiers of the city of Hamilton and finish off by talking about some of our upcoming activities and possibilities which will certainly be of interest to the city of Hamilton.

Our soldiers are ordinary Hamiltonians. They are teachers, police officers, electricians, steelworkers, and students. But they are extraordinary in what they do. These amazing young men and women give up their weekends and their holidays and sacrifice family functions so that they can train for the jobs that soldiers have to do. The job of the 21st century soldier requires new skill sets. A soldier in The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry today must use critical thinking, analysis and restraint. Certainly the core skills of musketry, physical fitness, and fieldcraft still apply. But today?s soldier operates sophisticated equipment under the most austere conditions and is governed by a military ethos and code of ethics that would challenge the most stalwart philosopher. The consequences of his actions or inactions have the most wide ranging impacts on the lives of those whom we protect, national security, the Government of Canada, and our NATO allies. And the soldier having that impact and making those decisions is often a 20 year old citizen of Hamilton who has quit his job because he cannot get time off, whose only desire is to serve.

And they do serve. In the last 10 years members of The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry have served in Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia, the Sudan, Sierra Leone, the Golan Heights, Haiti, and Afghanistan. More than 60 soldiers from the RHLI have served in Afghanistan alone ? most of them performing jobs which you would only expect to see in an expensive action movie. But they are also negotiators, mediators, teachers, and mentors and each one is helping to make this world a safer and better place.

They are soldiers but they are first and foremost citizens of this fine community. Many of them have been honoured and recognized in your council chambers. You see them training for exercises, but you also see our parades. Many of you are aware of the fabulous Canadian International Tattoo which features, among other outstanding acts, the music of the RHLI Band. You know of the concert in the park which is held at Dundurn Castle. It was the RHLI Band that played for Prince Charles when he came to Dundurn Castle and they played again for Prince Philip when he visited in July. Our Band is, very simply, world class and on the 19th of this month they will be playing at our very own Victoria Park in honour of the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Crystal Palace. In addition to our stellar band, is our newly created RHLI 13th Battalion Ceremonial Guard. These men and women are not re-enactors, but actual soldiers who have trained in the ceremonial drill of the 1800?s. As you can see from Corporal Stevens behind me, they are dressed in the uniforms worn by The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry in 1862 when we were the 13th Regiment. These are the same uniforms worn by members of the Regiment at the Battle of Ridgeway in 1866. In fact the casualties suffered at the battle of Ridgeway convalesced at Auchmar house which was the home of our first Commanding Officer, Sir Isaac Buchannan.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is not my intent to give you a history lesson, but to place into context the proud heritage of Hamilton?s oldest infantry regiment and to remind us of the vital role that they play, not only in our community but also on the world stage. I am proud to inform you that three members of The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry have received the Chief of the Defence Staff Commendation this year for their courageous decisions in Afghanistan and Haiti and and another still received a Commanders? Commendation.

And so they are not just exemplary citizens, your soldiers are superlative citizens and they are a critical and integral part of the fabric of the city. In 2012, The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry will celebrate its 150th anniversary. This is a momentous occasion in the life of any community and the occasion will be marked with a number of ceremonial events, parades and other activities. As you know, it is also the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, and it is also the Queen?s diamond jubilee. So the year 2012 will be a very busy year. We will be asking His Royal Highness, The Prince Philip to visit us personally. If he should accept, this may be an opportunity for the city to include him in other local programs. If he should not accept, but comes to Hamilton on city business, perhaps you will help to facilitate a visit to the RHLI. He is our colonel in chief. We hope, as the city prepares itself for this momentous year, that the history and members of the RHLI remain firmly fixed in the minds of every city councillor. There will be opportunities for proclamations, celebrations, and for the Regiment to exercise the freedom of the city which was granted by the city of Hamilton many years ago.

We do much with our great city and we have the potential to do even more together. Some say that our Royal Hamilton Light Infantry Heritage Museum is second only to the National War Museum in terms of its Regimental collection. We believe that a relocation from its current home in the basement of the James Street Armoury to a more suitable location could benefit Hamilton tourism. Sites like the Lister Block, the Discovery Centre, and Auchmar house come to mind. We believe that our ceremonial guard has the potential to play an active role at celebratory functions like the dedication of the gates at Dundurn Castle and at other functions. It is also important to note that these fine institutions are virtually unfunded by the Department of National Defence and exist solely due to the support of the Regimental Family and through the support of our Regimental Foundation.

Finally ladies and gentlemen I would like to tell you about Operation Yellow Ribbon. On November the 11th this year, the RHLI will be hosting a gala fund-raising dinner at the armoury on James Street. Tickets will be available shortly through the Orderly Room of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry.

This concludes my presentation. Thank-you for your attentiveness. I hope that as we move forward to 2012 and beyond that the long and rich relationship that we share with our city continues to prosper.