Op-ed: Toronto’s waterfront shouldn’t serve as a stage to promote warplanes

The controversial F-35 stealth fighter will be participating in its first Canadian International Air Show next weekend

With the Canadian military set to select a new fighter jet, the controversial F-35 stealth fighter will be participating in its first Canadian International Air Show next weekend.

As a father of a young child, I understand the appeal of some excitement in the sky, especially after the lockdown.

But flying warplanes over Lake Ontario is not innocent fun. 

Since the establishment of the Royal Canadian Air Force a century ago the Department of National Defence has promoted airshows. The CF-18 Demonstration Team and Snowbirds, which will also be flying over Lake Ontario, seek to “inspire” support for an air force that has bombed Iraq, Serbia, Libya and Iraq/Syria over the past three decades. Many civilians were killed directly or due to the destruction of infrastructure. 

As people seek to make sense of what’s happening in Afghanistan, it’s important to consider the death, destruction and enmity engendered by airstrikes.

The F-35 is a fighter jet that’s bombed Afghanistan. It is marketed as capable of releasing a B61 nuclear bomb. Toronto city council reaffirmed its commitment to Toronto being a Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone in 2018 and, according to an April poll, 80 per cent of Canadians believe “the world should work to eliminate nuclear weapons.” Rather than something to celebrate, the F-35 is a testament to humanity’s predilection for ploughing its resources and ingenuity into perfecting the art of killing. What could the US $1.7 trillion spent on the stealth fighter project accomplish if channeled towards fighting infectious diseases or transitioning away from fossil fuels?

The F-35 is participating in this year’s airshow as part of Lockheed Martin’s push to win the contract to provide the RCAF with 88 new fighter jets. Despite promising not to purchase the fighter during the 2015 election, the Liberals have included the F-35 in the three-jet competition set to be decided in the coming months. 

The No Fighter Jet coalition opposes the purchase. The Canadian Foreign Policy Institute released a public letter last month calling on Trudeau to scrap the $19 billion ($77 billion over their full lifecycle) purchase. The letter was signed by Canadian musicians Neil Young, Tegan and Sara and Sarah Harmer, as well as authors Michael Ondaatje, Gabor Maté and Yann Martel. The statement was also endorsed by environmentalists Naomi Klein and David Suzuki, as well as three sitting MPs, four former MPs and prominent international figures such as Roger Waters, Daryl Hannah and Noam Chomsky. 

Thousands of Torontonians have fled countries that have been bombed by fighter jets in recent years. The sound of low-flying warplanes can be triggering for those who have experienced such violence. There is often an influx of 911 calls whenever fighter jets fly by urban areas. 

Amidst a pandemic and intensifying climate crisis, Toronto’s waterfront shouldn’t serve as a stage to promote violent, incredibly expensive and environmentally destructive warplanes.

Yves Engler is the author of Stand On Guard For Whom? — A People’s History of the Canadian Military (Black Rose).


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17 responses to “Op-ed: Toronto’s waterfront shouldn’t serve as a stage to promote warplanes”

  1. Classic Canadian snowflake attitude.
    Let the kids enjoy the planes and bury your head in the sand for that weekend.

    • Agree. Poor refugees, and my peace and quiet (in Toronto?) and don’t forget my dog! I can respect an anti-war stance, after all war is bad, but and article full of half truths and misleading information loses all credibility.

    • It’s an Air Show. It demonstrates the future of airplanes. If you don’t like it don’t watch it.

  2. I agree with you Jeff. An upgrade of our Canadian war planes is way overdue. We need to be in a position to defend our own borders and stop relying on the US to keep us safe! Our Canadian government has procrastinated long enough, it is time to give our military the tools to defend.

  3. The plane serves as a reminder that we protect our people, and people love to see planes. Period.
    As per your argument that thousands in toronto have fled countries where there were low flying jets.
    Guess what, thousands also left countries where there were suicide bombers and extreme muslim religious fanatics forcing women in head-to-toe clothing. Should we not allow people in Canada to wear similar clothing here? Would that be too trauamtic for them? There were probably stray dogs too in those countries. Time to get rid of off-leash dog areas.

    This is why we can’t have nice things.

  4. What some people feel ‘triggered’ by is what others feel nostalgic and comforted by. I love the air show. I see these planes and am reminded of what I don’t need to fear in my daily life. I remember what my grandparents fought for and feel pride in being in a country not torn by war. Those sounds generate feelings in us that we shouldn’t reject or protest. They’re important to recognize and validate.

  5. Planes don’t kill people. People kill people. As a person fleeing from war torn country, I am grateful that the fighter jets actually keeping people (both grateful and ungrateful ones) safe, directly and indirectly. I will, as I’m doing for the past decades, continue to come down to cheer and enjoy the spectacular demonstrations of the men and women flying at the air show.

  6. Impressive the lack of understanding of the nowadays geopolitics. Canada has a huge territory to defend and we have to keep on guard towards powerful countries like Russia and China. I ask the author, when Russia comes with the latest Sukhoi fighters, what’s the plan? to defend ourselfs with stones and sticks? good luck with that. I am not advocate of the expensive F-35 but a country must be able to defend itself, we are not living in a world of unicorns and flowers. While we enjoy a beautiful and peaceful country we all have to understand we cannot take it for granted.

  7. Air ahows are a tool to recruit new pilots, not only for the military but for aviation in general. The CIAS has started in 1949 and as far as I inow has always been on the same weekend so there is lots of notice that it will be happeneing. I turly feel for the people who have fled a war torn country, but maybe exposing people who have grown up in Toronto to the real sound a fieghter plan makes will give them something to think about. As well be seeing these plans maybe people understand why they cost so much and need to be used as a last resort. Also our Prime Minister was an idiot for saying we will not buy the F-35 as it opened up a legal challenge by the manufacturer and if he chooses to exclude aircraft how is it an open competion like he promised? Also bids are in formthr next RCAF jet and if you think the appearance of a F-35 at the CIAS will change anything then the Super Hornet and Griphen would also be represented.

  8. The “No-Fighter Jets” coalition would have you believe that there no violence committed except by “expansionist Western nations” and that the only people that die are from those countries. This incessant naive attitude ignores the very real challenges that this world faces from leaders such as Putin and Xi Jinping, who basically just told Japan to stay out of the way on their forced reunification of Taiwan or be nuked.
    They also ignore the ongoing cries of leaders from North Korea and Iran, who continually spout off their hate for Western society and, especially in Iran’s case, have exported and supported violence in Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and in Palestine.
    We do not live in a peaceful world and those that do not make the effort to protect themselves will be conquered and enslaved by the more aggressive cultures. This is just a historical fact that we can be sure will also hold true for the future unfortunately.

  9. That’s awesome, cant wait to see it. I don’t think the writer of this article fully understands peace through strength … if you love peace then you should love and support a strong military that can defend our values abroad and provide a significant deterrent to rogue nations that don’t operate according to global norms and laws

  10. With one hour of operation of one F-35 costing approximately $40,000 perhaps we could have used that money to do something productive and good for everyone instead marketing products for war profiteers.

  11. This is so cringe-worthy. The fact that it’s capable of deploying a nuclear weapon does not make it a nuclear weapon and therefore doesn’t violate Toronto’s nuclear-free zone policy. Canadian troops have killed people overseas, should we ban them too? Like Jeff said, typical snowflake attitude.

  12. As someone who lives near the air show, I do not have a choice but to be assaulted daily with the horrifying, violent noise. Why can it not happen in a less populated area? Then these die-hard fans can travel to go see their precious war planes, without subjecting a city of millions to the danger, pollution and deafening noise against their will.

  13. War, like shit, happens. While one hopes to avoid war, it’s nice to have some defensive hardware on hand in the event one occurs.

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