Engaging with Canadians at the Canadian National Exhibition

Master Corporal Patricia Rizzo interacts with children at the G-Wagon display at the Canadian Army display at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto, Ontario on August 23, 2019. Photo: Lonny Kates, 4 Cdn Div JTFC HQ. ©2019 DND/MDN Canada. ***Le 23 août 2019, au kiosque de l’Armée canadienne de l’Exposition nationale canadienne tenue à Toronto (Ontario), le caporal-chef Patricia Rizzo décrit le G Wagon à des enfants. Photo : Lonny Kates, QG FOIC 4 Div CA. ©2019 DND/MDN Canada.

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By Lonny Kates, 4th Canadian Division Joint Task Force Central Headquarters

Every year, when the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) rolls into town, it is a signal to most Torontonians that the end of summer is fast approaching.  For the CAF, however, the start of the CNE marks the beginning of our largest outreach opportunity to engage with Canadians.  The CAF display at the CNE, a signature engagement event, is always a top draw for visitors to Canada’s largest annual fair.

This year, all three CAF elements were on exhibit highlighting some of our best military assets – both our uniformed men and women and our equipment.  For Cpl Nasir Butt, a Canadian Army reservist from the Queen’s York Rangers, was honoured to be able to show visitors the Tactical Armoured Patrol Vehicle (TAPV) on display. “When I tell our guests that this TAPV was used during the floods for Operation LENTUS to get around communities that were affected by flooding this spring in Ontario, they’re amazed,” he says.  “People are really impressed with our equipment.  I personally love interacting with the public and informing them the valuable role we play in emergencies.”

Similarly, for MCpl Patricia Rizzo, a Canadian Army reservist since 2012 from the Governor General’s Horse Guards, believes that outreach events like this are crucial to show Canadians what their armed forces do.  “I like talking to kids,” she says as she demonstrates the key features of the G Wagon on display.  “This is my third year here at the CNE, and there’s no better way to show Canadians what we do.  The biggest question I get asked from kids is wondering if all of the kit we put on is real.  They’re just super enthused to talk to us.”

Sgt Jeannette Chiasson, a Royal Canadian Air Force Flight Attendant from 437 Squadron based at CFB Trenton, who was demonstrating the F-18 cockpit, was ecstatic to have an opportunity to talk with Canadians and explain the work she does.  “I joined the military in 2002 at the age of 42.  Some people think you have to start off young, but that’s not the case,” she reveals.  “People think you have to join the military and get into the infantry, but I like to explain there are so many other options.  For the past 5 years, I’ve been a flight attendant, and have had the privilege of travelling with the Prime Minister and members of the Royal Family including Prince William, Kate and Prince George.”

Even the Royal Canadian Navy was onboard explaining the diversity of the work within the military.  Officer Cadet David Poot was working at the Navy’s display enthusiastically explaining to kids what deep sea diving is all about. He recently returned from his third naval deployment as a member of the Navy, and has now switched component commands to become a pilot. “Because I’m dive-certified I can show people how to put on the dive suit,” he explains.  “Kids ask me what I look for in the water, and how long you breathe. There’s a huge level of interest, and I’m so happy to be here!”

The CNE is a key event for the CAF as it allows our members to educate, demonstrate and interact with fellow Canadians. Each year, the CNE draws nearly 2 million visitors, enabling the CAF to maximize its reach to Canada’s largest city.

We can’t wait to do it again next year!

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