Canada Day, particularly its 150th anniversary, is an ideal time to consider how Canada has developed, and what the future holds for our country. Curiously enough, it is also an ideal time to consider how St. Albert has developed, and what the future holds for our city.
Comparing St. Albert’s history to Canada’s offers some interesting parallels. Across Canada, the indigenous people signed treaties with European settlers meant to share the land and live in harmony. Unfortunately, the Europeans constantly violated those agreements, causing widespread misery and suffering, especially with the catastrophic residential school system. St. Albert was originally founded as a MÄ‚Â©tis farming settlement, where the MÄ‚Â©tis might live peacefully with their First Nation and European neighbours. However, the MÄ‚Â©tis’ rights were violated for years afterward. St. Albert also hosted two residential schools, the last of which only closed in 1968.
Similarly, across Canada francophone Canadians expected to be able to have the same language rights that they enjoyed in Quebec. However, these agreements were frequently violated, with French discriminated against in favour of English, such that many francophones came to think that French could only thrive in Quebec itself. The first Europeans to live in St. Albert were francophone Catholic missionaries like Albert Lacombe and Vital Grandin, who coordinated all of the Catholic missionary activity on the Prairies and into the Northwest Territories. Unfortunately, as time went on, French was increasingly marginalized in St. Albert as well.
However, things have changed both across Canada and in St. Albert. Indigenous people in Canada are increasingly demanding recognition of their rights and distinct place in Canada, even as St. Albert is increasingly recognizing the indigenous part of its past. Francophone Canadians have secured their language rights across Canada, and French is recognized both in St. Albert’s history and schools.
Canada is also growing more and more ethnically and culturally diverse, as people from every part of the world have come to call this country home. Although it is not happening as quickly as in Toronto, Vancouver or Montreal, St. Albert is also becoming more diverse, with new people calling our community home.
Studying the history of both St. Albert, and Canada as a whole, is the key to truly understand how we have gotten to where we are, and what the future might hold for us. Our past, both as a city and as a country, is a chequered one with much to regret. The things we have to regret are directly responsible for many of the problems we face today, and in many respects they still need to be addressed.
However, St. Albert and Canada are also much more than that. They are also places where people from around the world have come to call home, places that have developed their own unique, rich cultures and histories.
On Canada’s 150th anniversary, we have much to criticize and regret.
However, on Canada’s 150th anniversary, we also have much to celebrate and take pride in.
Jared Milne is a St. Albert resident with a passion for Canadian history and politics.