Editorial – First in Line

I hope you had a happy Canada day, and, if You’re American, an equally good Independence Day.

Ask me on any other day of the year, and I’ll be quite happy to tell you all about how I think the concepts of nationalism and patriotism are causing more harm in the world than good. But, come Canada day, that doesn’t stop me from putting on my goofy, super-tall red and white hat, and spending the morning of every Canada day running around to various festivals and activities being held in the city. For all my protests against nationalism, I have to admit that when it comes to Canada, I’ve always been fiercely proud of what we’ve created here.

It’s not perfect, of course. We’ve certainly had our problems, from residential schools to internment camps to eugenics, Canada has not always been a terribly enlightened place, even though we like to think of ourselves as such. But part of what makes me proud of Canada is that we have this ability to look back on those activities, and, while understanding that they were wrong, also understand that part of why we know they’re wrong is because we’ve improved.

This week is also the start of the annual Calgary Stampede. This is one of those events that I think that, one day, we will look back on and understand the wrong we’ve been doing. The idea of carnival is fairly universal, and the stampede’s origins in the humble agricultural fair are not to be discounted. However, every year we hear of animals killed in the chuck-wagon events, or significantly injured in the rodeo, and I find myself wondering if we really need to pursue that kind of entertainment. Knowing that the risk of injury or death to an animal each year is extremely high, how can people justify paying money to support these kind of events any more than, say, dog-fighting? Oh, certainly, the Stampede proponents like to go on about how well the animals are treated the rest of the time, but really, That’s irrelevant. Treating animals well should be the base of behavior, using it to justify the stress and risk of injury or death they get put through for our entertainment is hardly acceptable.

Yet this privately run exhibition of brutality gets government funding most years, as a nod to our heritage. I wonder, would people be so sanguine if the government decided to resume the practice of residential schools as a similar nod to “our heritage”?

Needless to say, I don’t attend the Stampede. I endure the extra traffic, I take advantage of the many other events our city hosts during the same period, but the Stampede itself I steer clear of. Which is too bad, really, because they often bring in various entertainment that I’d like to see, and aside from the rodeo and chuck wagon races, there are so many interesting and fun things there that it really is a loss. I keep being hopeful, however, that one day enough people will decide they don’t want to pay to put animals at risk for their entertainment. When that happens, I’ll be the first in in line. Until then, enjoy the read!

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