Michel Beaulieu (from left), Roslynn Ratz, Lt.-Col. Geoff Abthorpe, Lt.-Col. Marc Thibert, Lt.-Col. John Groves, Capt. Jennifer Martensen and MP John Rafferty toast the Queen Tuesday at the Lake Superior Scottish Regiment's annual New Year's Day levee.
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Nowhere are traditions more revered than in the military.
On Tuesday the Lake Superior Scottish Regiment celebrated one of their most time-honoured rituals, the toast to the Queen at their annual New Year’s Day levee held in the officer’s mess at the Thunder Bay Armouries.
Lt.-Col. Geoff Abthorpe, the commanding officer of both the LSSR and the Thunder Bay Garrison, said the levee is a great way to start the new year and reaffirm allegiance to the Crown.
“Traditions are important to both the military and to Canada as a whole,” said Abthorpe, a veteran of the Afghanistan campaign.
“We’ve left 1812 celebrations behind and we’re carrying on into 2013. And we need to carry on our traditions that make us truly Canadians. Throughout the Commonwealth today the levees are going on. It’s something we can touch back our past on and look forward to the future.”
New Year’s Day levees date back to the 17th century, to 1646 specifically, when Charles Huault de Montmagny, the governor of New France, received civilian and military officials at Chateau Saint-Louis. At the time the governor used the occasion not only to meet and greet civilians and military leaders alike, but also to recount significant affairs of the colony that one day would become the Canadian province of Quebec.
“The monarchy carried it on, where we would have to get together and be mandated to reaffirm our allegiance,” Abthorpe said.
“It’s a wonderful chance to connect to the community, not just with members of the military, but also with members of the local business community you’ll see around the room here.”
Also on hand was MP John Rafferty (NDP, Thunder Bay-Rainy River).
Rafferty said too often people underestimate the value of the military, and where in the past it played a major role in day-to-day life, he believes there has been a lessening of that influence in recent years.
“I think the people, the men and women and boys and girls who belong to these programs really are valuable members of their communities,” Rafferty said.
“Through the training they receiver and through the camaraderie they receive through these programs, it really makes any community a stronger place.”
There’s a long and proud military history in Northwestern Ontario, he added, one he’d like to see continue unabated.
The LSSR isn’t the only military outfit celebrating with a New Year’s Day levee.
Commanding Officer Peter Fleming of HMSC Griffon said it's a good time to talk about the good times of the previous year and the good fortune expected in 2013.
"It's a chance for both the active military ... to get together with the retired military members in the community to have a toast to the Queen and talk a little about the good times. As you know, the military community is a very tight community," Fleming said. "And as you know when you join the military, you make friends for life," he said.
"When you leave the military you don't necessarily want to leave the tradition behind."
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A third levee is scheduled for the Port Arthur Branch No. 5 at 2 p.m.