TORONTO — The sounds of jets roaring through the skies of Toronto often elicit gasps and cheers from fans of an annual air show that takes place each Labour Day weekend, but they're also prompting outcry from those who fear the noise from the event does more harm than good.
Detractors of the Canadian International Air Show say the event, a staple of the Canadian National Exhibition featuring military pilots demonstrating their most elaborate loops, rolls and turns, causes undue stress for those living with PTSD and needless disruptions for people and pets alike.
The event showcases professional pilots from the United States Blue Angels, Canadian Forces Snowbirds and others. The roar of the aircraft engines could be heard starting on Thursday when practice days for the show began, prompting several people to describe the noise as deafening and terrifying on social media platforms like Reddit, Facebook and X, formerly Twitter. Some said it routinely caused nightmares for themselves or their family members, and others considered leaving town for the weekend to escape the sounds.
Hundreds of people were still gathered in Coronation Park near the CNE grounds when the show got underway on Saturday, but not all were there to admire the moves.
Anita Presnyak and Anton Babych, originally from Ukraine and living near the CNE site, said some of their friends who are still struggling with memories of war expressed discomfort with the air show and even experienced panic attacks from the noise.
She also said it caused some anxiety for her small black dog, Pixel.
“Immediately, he tries to find me and he runs towards me and sometimes runs into the couch,” Presnyak said.
Dawson Robertson said his American bulldog, Frank, got visibly anxious during the beginning of the air show demonstrations.
“I think there's a lot of considerations they should take into account, like people with PTSD and dogs and maybe just older people,” he said.
He said he enjoys the show but would prefer to see it run for a single day rather than throughout the Labour Day weekend.
On the other side of the park, near the CNE grounds, Jamie Davidson was walking with his two Staffordshire Bull Terriers.
Davidson said he lives in a 20th-storey apartment and admits the noise is very loud from his unit. He said the jet sounds do make his dogs anxious, though noted activities like Canada Day fireworks can provoke a similar response.
“The big one, she does kind of just sit in the corner of the couch and curls up into a ball,” he said.
But Davidson expressed his support for the event, remarking on the number of people the event brings out to the park.
“I grew up in Toronto, I think it's awesome that they keep a tradition," he said. "To be quite honest with you, it's nice.”
The City of Toronto did not comment on the various concerns raised, but did issue a news release inviting residents to provide feedback for city noise pollution public consultations starting next week.
A spokesperson for the Canadian International Air Show said the event complies with all regulations provided by Transport Canada, Nav Canada and other governmental organizations relating to noise.
"While we sympathize with the sensitivity that some members of the public might feel, our goal has always been to inspire the public to follow their dreams and have an appreciation for the field of aviation," Colleen McCourt wrote in an email.
The Canadian International Air Show will run until Monday afternoon.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 3, 2023.
William Eltherington, The Canadian Press