A lot of the sentiment driving people to consider Separatism in Alberta at present stems from a lot of the suffering emerging over our current economic malaise, a consequence of systematic mismanagement by the Federal Government as well as other Municipal and Provincial governments across the country.
Moreover, that suffering is exacerbated by the systematic mismanagement of our provinces inter-jurisdictional relationships by the current NDP government in Alberta (which itself is another topic for another time).
The key point to take from this, though, is suffering.
As an Albertan, I am keenly aware of the suffering many of my fellow Albertans are going through. In Calgary, there is a pervasive sense of dread and uncertainty over the future, and I have seen first hand that this is driving some to desperate extremes.
People are losing their homes, their families, some are resorting to crime, or outright suicide.
In no way do I want to trivialize the severity of what we are going through.
But at the same time, I want to emphasize – that I am still grateful to be an Albertan, and in fact, I am grateful to be a Canadian.
It is easy for me to say that, given that I have weathered out this economic upheaval with minimal direct hardship, and I know those words are cold comfort for many of my fellow Albertans who are experiencing extraordinary hardships at the moment.
But my rational for this gratitude stems from an awareness of my own history and heritage, as well as the history and heritage of Canada, for the time my country.
My father immigrated to Alberta in the 1970’s from Hong Kong when he was 17, not knowing a word of English and with a few hundred dollars to his name. He worked odd, menial jobs in Red Deer and Fort Mac, learning English along the way. He finished high school, graduated from the University of Alberta in Engineering, and had a long and highly successful career in the oil industry (a sizable portion of the current oil production of the province is directly attributable to his work).
This, in my opinion, is the proper template for immigration: that immigrants come with a desire to work AND integrate and contribute to their communities. That as opposed to free-load off government hand-outs, self-segregating themselves to ethnic enclaves with no exposure, willingness, or opportunity to adopt the language, culture, and practices of the dominant, ethnic majority.
That is, to be willing to become Canadian (which is precisely how my father raised me).
Prior to immigrating to Canada, my father lived in squalor, in a small apartment with my grandparents and 4 siblings with no toilet and no running water – his whole life.
I am grateful that even as Canadians, it is inconceivable that I or my children could ever be condemned to such a fate (I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it’s unlikely to the point of near certainty).
Even though my father immigrated from Hong Kong (and my mother from the Philippines, where conditions were comprable to worse), my family heritage in Calgary goes back to the early 1900’s, when my great-great grandfather was one of Calgary’s first Chinese pioneers.
He was separated from his family in China when the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed, but in actuality, if you study the context of global geopolitics for the time, the Canadian government was well within their right to do so, and it was the most sensible thing to have done.
(The short version of it was that China was in the midst of decades of sectarian violence and civil war, seeing it’s systematic decline. Canada as a nation at the time was in no way capable of sensibly dealing with the mass influx of refugees that would have ensued with an open border immigration policy to China, and to close of the border in the interests of national unity was absolutely the right thing to do).
Regardless, my great-great grandfather made a good living for himself as a chef in Calgary’s Chinatown (something I am proud about, every morning when I ride my bike past the apartment he spent his life in), and died a relatively affluent man (he sent money back to my great grandfather and even my grandfather in China – who later in his life, would take me to his grave in the Chinese Pioneer’s Cemetary off Macleod Trail to honour him).
Meditating on the lessons of my great-great grandfather, who lived in Calgary between 1914-1954 brought me to do more of an analysis of Canadian history of the era. In particular, Canada’s massive contributions to the war efforts during the First and Second World Wars.
Canada as a nation fought both wars, quite simply, because it’s national existence depended on it’s role as a land connection between the British Isles and it’s Pacific colonies. The Canadian Pacific Railway which my great-great grandfather likely helped build was built to facilitate transportation of goods and resources to generate enough surplus to enable Canada as a nation to simply exist.
(Ironic that the current malaise we in Alberta today are experience is on account of the fact that we don’t have access to such transportation infrastructure for one of our most important resources).
Without transcontinental trade with the British Empire, Canada as a whole would be an undeveloped wasteland that likely would have simply been annexed by the Americans.
The threats to the British Empire during both World Wars were absolutely an existential threat to Canada in those regards, so much so that Canadians of my great-great grandfather’s era selflessly sacrificed themselves to defeat the Axis forces. Incidentally, it’s no-coincidence that the Canadian flag at the time was a distinctly British Red Ensign (a flag I hold in high regard for, given it’s historic significance).
The accomplishments of those Canadians, very many Albertans counted among them, was absolutely stunning, but so too were their sufferings.
To this point, comes the question of being Canadian. Globalists and post-modern progressives (like Justin Trudeau) think the intrinsic culture and heritage that we Albertans, as Canadians, are the inheritors of are worth throwing away.
Are we, as separatists willing to think the same?
That is an impossibly difficult question to answer, because most certainly, if we separate from Canada we will lose a very large part of that culture and heritage.
I served in the Canadian military from 2001 to 2008 and this year was the first year since I released that I attended a Remembrance Day Ceremony. It inspired me to write about this very topic.
Certainly Albertans today are suffering to various degrees under the current orientation of Canadian Confederation. But Albertans in the past willingly suffered to far greater magnitudes during the wars of the 20th century than what many of us are experiencing today.
While I am deeply sympathetic to my fellow current Albertans experiencing such hardship, I am reminded of the hardships our fore-bearers endured most decidedly as Canadians, for Canada, and am deeply grateful to be a recipient of the future they sacrificed for.
While I do believe the threat of separatism is a political option we Albertans must keep in our repertoire of instruments in dealing with the Canadian Confederation, we must never be ungrateful or disrespectful to the fact that many, MANY Albertans fought and died for the Canada Alberta is a part of today.