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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Heavy weapons displays aimed at small children have no place at Toronto's CNE or anywhere else

A yearly trip to Toronto's end of summer Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) or "The Ex" is something of a must for many families, my own included.

There is something both nostalgic and wonderfully immediate about its blend of rides, games, shopping and food. It hearkens back to countless county and town fairs, with candy apples, butter sculptures, countless hucksters trying to part you from your money selling gimmicky products of dubious quality, and Midway classics where you are almost compelled to spend money trying to beat obviously nearly impossible contests to win prizes worth far less than what it took to get them!

Unfortunately for many years now the Canadian Armed Forces have deemed it appropriate to use the CNE to promote themselves to fair-goers, families and children and, presumably, to use a summer fun fair to lay the seeds for future recruits. This year is no different and the military has, again, been given an especially prominent location just outside the Food Pavilion on what used to be a grassy area for people to eat.

Any thinking person should object in principle to the inclusion of an area at a family and recreational event that is dedicated to the normalization and, indeed, celebration of instruments of imperialist mass destruction such as fighter jets and tanks and that is aimed obviously and directly at children.

During our trip today (August 28 when all these photos were taken) we saw small children playing with a model heavy machine gun in a faux gunner's nest, being shown how to, in theory, prime artillery pieces, being placed in the cockpit of a fighter jet and other similar displays.

Children playing at a heavy machine gun nest and artillery piece.

Children lining up to sit in a fighter jet cockpit. I wonder if they are told what these planes have done to countless innocent children killed by Canadian, western and NATO jets in other countries.

These types of weapons are not mass killing devices in theory but in practice and including by Canadian forces and the forces of NATO which Canada is a part of. They have led to the killings of countless innocents in places like Afghanistan and Libya.

This outright glorification of heavy weaponry and weapons of mass violence to children is wrong at anytime and is particularly disturbing in the context of recent mass shootings in North America -- often using assault weapons -- and increased gun violence. Never mind the rise of a heavily armed, North American white nationalist and pro-militarist movement.

There is no place for this at the CNE or any other similar publicly funded event. It is grotesque to watch children playing with heavy machine guns and artillery pieces as if these weapons fit right in with the cotton candy stalls and rides. These displays should end now.



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