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Archive for February 2008

Culture and Politics

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Does politics reflect culture? Or obliterate it? In the Province of Alberta, many poltical scientists love to talk up the American influence on this part of Canada. They manage to get on just about every national newscast where the topic of Alberta's role in Canada comes up. And they often trounce and complain about our political system. But they seem oddly unaware of the basic elements of our history.

In particular, they seem to lack understanding that Central Canadians and Representatives of the Crown encouraged the independent streak they laud as unique. They insist it's an American influence. Or a perspective based on alienation from political elites in Ottawa. But our independent streak is clearly rooted in our family ties (not our grievances) to the Crown and to Central Canada:

Take a look at our symbols: The Province's motto Liber and Fortis (Strong and Free) was granted by the Crown. It's a British as you can get.

There's more: Alberta was named by a Governor General, The Marquis of Lorne, in honour of his wife. Louise Caroline Alberta, a princess with an independent streak, Queen Victoria's youngest daughter. And she was the only one of Victoria's daughters to refuse a political marriage to foreign Prince. Alberta (Lorne preferred to call her Alberta or Alba) insisted on choosing her own husband.

More than that, Louise Caroline Alberta may be the only 19th Century Princess to have had her own career -- she trained in Berlin as a sculptor and painter. She also cooked, cleaned and ironed. And snuck out to public lectures without her bodyguards. Oh and she did temperance and social justice work. So did Lorne. 

Lord Lorne insisted on calling this NWT territorial district a province in the 1880's. It wasn't a province, but he knew it would be.  And he knew it would be a rich one with a key role to play in Confederation.

The Cross of Saint George still soars above the mountains and wheat fields on the Province's Coat of Arms. Clear testimony to the allegiance of our early legislators.  

Our first five premiers, often touted as rebels against Ottawa, were born in Ontario. And reformers like the Famous Five sought to bring legal changes to the whole British Empire. They saw the Crown and our imperial connection as a guardian of their rights. Which it turned out to be!

But most Albertans know little about this heritage. That's really too bad, because if you don't know where you've been, you can't chart where to go. Or imagine all the things you can accomplish. Worse yet, the pundits can get away with saying almost anything. No one will question them. And as people lose their identity, they do become disenfranchised. Remember the low voter turnout in the last provincial election? Could it be that the obliteration of our symbols and constant denigration of our heritage by pundits and politicians be a factor?  

Written by janeharris(harris-zsovan)

February 12, 2008 at 3:07 am