The Canadian Armed Forces continue a long tradition with the Canadian National Exhibition in Canada’s 150th year

Article / August 16, 2017 / Project number: c-ar-17-08-16

By 2nd Lieutenant Philip Ngo, 4th Canadian Division Public Affairs

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Toronto, Ontario — The Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) is an annual 18-day agricultural fair, traditionally marking the end of summer in Toronto. Beyond the annual event, there is a strong underlying relationship between Canada’s military, the CNE and the surrounding area we now know as “Exhibition Place”.

As you set your sights on all the activities scattered throughout the CNE from August 18th to September 4th, you may not notice all of the hidden history on the exhibition grounds and its significance to Canada’s history. Just less than a century ago, this was the location of a key military housing and training centre. To this day, some of its remnants remain throughout the area.

Long before the commercial gathering of the CNE, the area was built as a strategic military post in the 1700s. Fort York was established in 1793 with artillery placed to protect the western gap into the Toronto harbour. The site was of great significance during the War of 1812 as it defended against invasion and deterred threats from the Americans to the south.

“When the Americans invaded in 1813, they landed on the exhibition grounds and were confronted by Captain James Givins of the Queen’s Rangers (now known as the Queen’s York Rangers of 32 Canadian Brigade Group), soldiers and allied natives,” said Captain John Link, Unit Public Affairs Representative of the Queen’s York Rangers. The Queen's York Rangers is an armoured reconnaissance regiment with squadrons in Toronto and Aurora.

Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, the ties between the military and Exhibition Place continued. During the Great War, Canada used the area for training and housing soldiers. The annual CNE event was used to educate and demonstrate Canada’s war effort to the general public. Visitors were able to watch military manoeuvers, soldiers practicing their drills and tour trenches. These grounds played a significant role in developing and maintaining a militia that was ready to respond in defence of Canada.

To this day, the CNE remains a key event for the military as it allows members of the Canadian Armed Forces to educate, demonstrate and interact with a large audience. In 2016, the CNE attracted 1.7 million visitors, enabling the Canadian Armed Forces to maximize its reach to Canada’s largest city. Just as in the early 1900s, the CNE provides visitors with the opportunity to meet our soldiers and see what they do for our country.

“We continue our tradition of participating in the CNE by showcasing our personnel, equipment and opportunities to serve,” said Brigadier-General Stephen Cadden, Commander of 4th Canadian Division. “The CNE is an avenue for us to directly engage with Canadians and show them who we are and what we do. For 150 years, Canada has stood its ground at Exhibition Place and we are proud to continue that tradition.”

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