Toronto’s waterfront shouldn’t serve as a prop to promote violent warplanes. With the air force set to select a new fighter jet, the controversial F-35 Stealth Fighter will be participating in this weekend’s Canadian International Air Show.
As a father of a young child, I understand the appeal of some excitement in the sky, especially after the lockdown. But, what flying warplanes over Lake Ontario is not innocent fun.
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 their violence and there is often an influx of 911 calls whenever fighter jets flyby urban areas.
The airshow celebrates warplanes and the Air Force. 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 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 over 7000 US airstrikes a year. A fighter jet that’s bombed Afghanistan, the F-35 is appearing in its first Canadian International Airshow this weekend.
The F-35 is marketed as capable of dropping a B61 nuclear bomb. Yet, the city council reaffirmed its commitment to Toronto being a Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone in 2018 and, according to an April poll, 80% 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 accomplished 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 Canadian Air Force with 88 new fighter jets. Despite promising not to purchase the Stealth Fighter before being elected in 2015, 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 F-35 and the entire plan to purchase 88 new fighter jets. In a boost for the campaign 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) fighter jet purchase that 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 opposed to “spending tens of billions of dollars on unnecessary, dangerous, climate destroying fighter jets” 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.
Amidst a pandemic and intensifying climate crisis, the federal government shouldn’t be spending tens of billions of dollars on new carbon-intensive fighter jets. And Toronto’s waterfront shouldn’t be used to promote warplanes.
Yves Engler’s Stand on Guard For Whom? — A People’s History of the Canadian Military is now available.