Gens de la Saskatchewan: an ode to the new Prairie nation

Western Canada is undergoing an extraordinary demographic boom, both the creation of, and the destruction of, old communities Gens de la Saskatchewan: an ode to the new Prairie nation I first fell in love…

Gens de la Saskatchewan: an ode to the new Prairie nation

Western Canada is undergoing an extraordinary demographic boom, both the creation of, and the destruction of, old communities

Gens de la Saskatchewan: an ode to the new Prairie nation

I first fell in love with what has become the Gens de la Saskatchewan country because I grew up among it. Canada’s first attempt at a federation of provinces – as opposed to one vast country – came during my own childhood: The British Columbian Agricultural Development Act, when there were eight provinces, four territories and British Columbia. In 1951, Saskatchewan became the second province in the Union. In 1955, B.C. became the third province, and in 1958, Alberta and Manitoba became the fourth and fifth provinces.

The days that accompanied Confederation and before our foundational act are a great national topic of conversation, but few people know that the Canadian federation was born on those acres of trees in our backyard. Those acres are now the front line of a transfer of power from old, ageing political jurisdictions to the Youth of the 21st century.

Canada’s population is ever-growing, and so are our rural spaces – western Canada is a land of fascinating memories, rural stories and biographies. It’s a land for the family, for travel, for company and for inspiration, a land for growth and a refuge for aging, or lonely, cities.

The Progressive Conservatives took power in Alberta in 2015, and they promised a new approach to government. They set out on a “roaring” hardwood-lumber trail across prairie lands – and in the years that followed, they met resistance from those who belong to the most tired and dilapidated of those land formations. Sustained pressure from everywhere, combined with a government determined to do the opposite of what the angry and isolated people in western Canada were calling for, had led to a historical “moderate” demise of democracy in this land.

Logan Park, Alberta – where learning became a little bit different in 2016

The changing of the guard in Alberta: political rise and fall Read more

Canada’s problem with political naivete and defiance is one of internal western concern, but it has found expression across the federation. The stereotypical way-out-of-the-post-millennium globe-trotter can help make sense of it all.

This week we are celebrating the sixth-century voyage of the Gens de la Saskatchewan, one of the first groups to venture off the coast of mainland Canada (on the route that Mackenzie King, the 20th-century Canadian prime minister and provincially elected premier of the new provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba, took in 1776 to establish the boundaries for Canada). Their journey as an ambitious young people across such a land space of considerable potential, but poverty, drought and resource loss, was itself a revolutionary moment.

“Western Canada is going through an extraordinary demographic boom, both the creation of, and the destruction of, old communities” – so says Rick Leckner of Searchlight Media (note: Searchlight includes the Gens de la Saskatchewan in its current series, also entitled The Gens). “These younger, more tech-savvy Gens of today are likely the ones who will clean up the mess our parents left behind. It’s inspiring to see people like these helping to take over the land, trying to restore, create and renew rural Canada.”

• Read more Gens de la Saskatchewan in the Searchlight blog, and listen to our week of podcasts, including a lecture by historian Ingrid Jungerman on the prairie tradition and the well-known discussion from 1915 on the tendency of northern Saskatchewan to drift southward and the replacement of prairie land with farmland and industry by urban sprawl in this series, On Saskatchewan

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