guns explosions toronto governor general

Here's why people heard heavy guns firing in the heart of Toronto this week

Global tensions are high amid a war in Ukraine that has unfolded in jarring high definition before our very eyes, and it's entirely understandable that people got a bit jumpy on Thursday when artillery guns sent out a volley of deafening blasts in the heart of downtown Toronto.

But just like the recent military exercise in Toronto's subway system and the train full of tanks spotted rolling into the city from the east, Thursday's sudden salvos were no cause for concern. It was, in fact, a 21-gun salute honouring the first official Toronto visit by Mary Simon, Governor General of Canada, and viceregal consort Mr. Whit Fraser.

The visit has the pair touring the city on Thursday and Friday, and Their Excellencies were welcomed to the city with official military honours, the 4th Canadian Division firing off a ceremonial 21-gun salute outside of the Legislative Building at Queen's Park.

No live shells were used, of course, but it was undoubtedly a confusing shock to anyone who didn't get the memo beforehand.

As with other shows of military strength like the annual air show, the firing of cannons in the heart of a city home to many people who grew up in war-torn countries is facing criticism, a likely trigger for past trauma.

It's a custom that dates back to the sixteenth century when ships would fire off their cannons before entering a foreign port as a signal of non-hostility, the reload time of that era's cannons making the approaching ship a non-threat.

So while it has become a rich tradition in militaries around the world, the custom is an outdated relic.

After getting their ears rattled by their welcoming barrage, the VIPs had official meetings with Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, Premier Doug Ford, members of First Nations groups, and Toronto Mayor John Tory.

The official visit continues Friday with appearances at Kapapamahchakwew – Wandering Spirit School and the Ukrainian National Federation of Canada.

Lead photo by

4th Canadian Division

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