Penticton Peach Festival, Penticton Snowbirds Committee, and Dave Kampe

Don Kendall, President, Penticton Peach Festival
Fred Trainor, Chair, Penticton Snowbirds Committee
Dave Kampe, owner, Peters Bros. Construction


As organized by Don Kendall and Fred Trainor, and sponsored by Dave Kampe, the opening night of this year’s Penticton Peach Festival will feature the Canadian Forces Snowbirds precision aerobatic team, as well as the Canadian Army’s SkyHawks parachute team. The CF-18 Hornet jet fighter team will also perform, according to the Penticton Western News, “a pyrotechnic, simulated battle scene.”

We the undersigned have numerous areas of concern about your planned program, including:

• The disturbing effect military air shows can have on vulnerable viewers
• The significant cost to taxpayers of the RCAF military demonstration teams
• The stated purpose of the Snowbirds aerial demonstration team, and
• The explicit linking of the CF-18 demonstration with a celebration of Canadian Confederation.

Mr. Kendall seems to believe the three-part military demonstration will have entertainment value equal to the musical act that will follow it. “Having this type of a show on opening night is going to be incredible,” he said in promotional materials. “It will make for a great opening night with headliner 54-40 taking the main stage later that evening.”

The undersigned believe that it’s a serious mistake to promote aerial military demonstrations as entertainment. Military air shows are disturbing for many, and are potentially traumatizing for newcomers who have escaped war. Toronto filmmaker Maya Bastian documented the reactions of people observing the 2016 Canadian Air Show, including Tamil refugees. Many of them suffer from post-traumatic stress, and the air show can be triggering, she says. Academic researcher Craig Damian Smith works with refugees and is also familiar with the Canadian Air Show. He considers air shows “insulting, invasive, and violent” for those who have experienced the trauma of war.

According to Canadian author and historian Yves Engler, the Snowbirds are one element of a “massive military cultural outreach” conducted by the federal government. The Snowbirds’ annual operation costs of $4.3 million dwarf any that the local sponsor has absorbed. In addition, the Canadian Forces plan to spend another $755 million on a new fleet of demonstration aircraft, he says.

Just as significant as taxpayer costs is the purpose of the Snowbirds. The government acknowledges they are an important public relations and recruiting tool for the Canadian Armed Forces. Engler finds recruitment is a major driver of a multi-million dollar public relations behemoth that celebrates and commemorates so-called “glorious” wars and battles, builds war monuments, and funds Remembrance Day services and ongoing war-related “awareness” programs such as Canada Remembers; and whose personnel “write press releases, organize press conferences, monitor the news, brief journalists, befriend reporters and editors, or perform various other media-related activities” destined to fill news stories.

“It’s time for a concerted challenge to this unbridled militarism,” says Engler, and we the undersigned agree.

It’s impossible to understand the full range of problems with the planned military display unless one takes into account historical considerations. The RCAF explicitly links the CF-18 demonstration with Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation. “Specifically, the RCAF will honour the history of the Canadian Armed Forces, including the RCAF, as a part of Canada’s proud history,” they say. “The upcoming air show season is a special opportunity for the RCAF and the Demonstration Team to join Canadians in celebrating shared values, achievements and Canada's place in the world.”

But there are many in Canada, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, who question what there is to celebrate about Confederation. Dixon Terbasket is an Okanagan resident and member of the Indigenous-led, inter-cultural project Rethink 150: Indigenous Truth that seeks to raise awareness of alternative narratives about the last 150 years. Drawing a line from the arrival of Columbus to the Canadian Confederacy, all the way to contemporary resource extraction, he sees a history of colonization that includes genocide, destruction, exploitation and oppression by church and government. “The history of Canada is not a proud one,” he says. “The things that happened to us, we have to acknowledge them. If you don’t acknowledge what’s going on, you’re not going to be able to start fixing it.”

It’s coincidental that opening night of the Peach Festival, August 9, falls on the 72nd anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. At the time of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Canada's prime minister Mackenzie King reflected, “it is fortunate that the use of the bomb should have been upon the Japanese rather than upon the white races of Europe." It’s not at all coincidental that racism informed that military strike as much as it informs Canada’s conquest and ongoing colonization of Indigenous peoples.

In consideration of the need for reconciliation between Canada and Indigenous peoples; and in consideration of the expense to taxpayers of this military program and its intention to recruit; in consideration of the potential of the air show to upset members of the public, particularly those who have experienced war; and in consideration of the need to repudiate military response to conflict and first-strike military aggression in a world that’s steeped in war, we call on the organizers to cancel the air show component of the 2017 Peach Festival and to ensure that Penticton’s skies will never again be pierced by war planes on a mission to enlist innocent youth.

BC Southern Interior Peace Coalition
Mark Haley, Member, Kelowna Peace Group
Laura Savinkoff, Coordinator, Boundary Peace Initiative
David Jefferess, Associate Professor, Cultural Studies, UBCO
Dianne Varga, Ad Hoc Penticton Peace Committee
No One Is Illegal – Vancouver
Yves Engler, author and activist
Dimitri Lascaris, lawyer, journalist and activist
David Heap, Associate Professor, University of Western Ontario
Wendy Goldsmith, People for Peace, London
Cy Gonick, Canadian Dimension magazine
Eric Shragge, Associate Professor, retired, School of Community and Public Affairs, Concordia University
Aziz S. Fall, President, Centre Internationaliste Ryerson Fondation Aubin
Steven Staples, Founder of Rideau Institute and Ceasefire.ca
No One Is Illegal – Toronto
Derrick O'Keefe, writer, activist, and former co-chair of the Canadian Peace Alliance and StopWar Vancouver
Bill Phipps, retired minister, United Church of Canada, Calgary
Dru Oja Jay, writer and organizer
Maya Bastian, journalist, filmmaker, and specialist in conflict and post-conflict reconciliation
Robert Stewart, Director, Canadian Centres for Teaching Peace
Irene MacInnes, Co-founder of StopWar Vancouver and recipient of City of Vancouver Peace Award, 2003
Matthew Behrens, writer, Coordinator, Homes not Bombs
Victoria Peace Coalition
Kelowna Chapter of the Council of Canadians

We the undersigned support the Open Letter to the organizers and sponsor of the Penticton Peach Festival military demonstration and call for cancellation of this component of the festival.

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The Cancel military display at Penticton Peach Festival petition to Penticton Peach Festival, Penticton Snowbirds Committee, and Dave Kampe was written by Ad Hoc Penticton Peace Committee and is in the category Military at GoPetition.