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Ag Politics

The rich and sobering history of Red Deer’s “Unknown Soldier”

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The origins of Red Deer’s beautiful Cenotaph date back to the end of WWI.  The statue of the Unknown Soldier is a provincial historic site.  In this article, historian and author Michael Dawe helps us understand the rich history of this monument and reminds us all of the sacrifice of our forebearers.  Enjoy the photo gallery showing the changes to the Cenotaph and its surroundings over the years. 

The Cenotaph by Michael Dawe

There are many memorials around the City of Red Deer to honour those who served and those who lost their lives during a time of war. The main community memorial is the Cenotaph, the statue of the Unknown Soldier that stands in the centre of Ross Street in the heart of downtown Red Deer.

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The origins of the Cenotaph go back to the end of the First World War. That conflict had been a searing experience for Red Deer. 850 young men and women from the City and surrounding districts had enlisted. Of these, 118 lost their lives. Of those who returned, many had suffered terrible wounds and faced a lifetime of ill health and suffering.  Hence, it was extremely important to the community that a fitting and very special memorial be created.

On December 18, 1918, five weeks after the end of the War, the Central Alberta local of the Great War Veterans Association (forerunner of the Royal Canadian Legion) organized a large public meeting to discuss the creation of such a memorial.  Three proposals were initially made. The first was to construct a pyramidal monument of river cobblestones in the centre of the City. The second was to construct a community hall and recreation facility next to City Hall. The third was to purchase the old Alexandra (Park) Hotel and turn it into a community centre.

After considerable discussion, a fourth proposal was adopted. It was decided to build a monument rather than a community centre.  However, at the suggestion of Lochlan MacLean, it was also decided that this monument be in the form of a statue of a soldier, mounted on a pedestal, rather than a cobblestone pyramid or obelisk.

Major Frank Norbury, an architectural sculptor at the University of Alberta and a veteran of the War, was commissioned to carve the statue. He came up with the concept of carving the Unknown Soldier as he was coming off active duty on the front line. He was to face west, toward home and peace. He was also to be positioned towards the C.P.R. station from which most of the soldiers had left Red Deer for the War.

This latter point was one of the greatest controversies about the Cenotaph. City Council and a few others wanted it in the centre of the City Square (now City Hall Park). However, the majority wanted it facing directly towards the station and in the middle of Ross Street, Red Deer’s busiest thoroughfare, so that it would be a constant reminder of the sacrifices of the War.

Meanwhile, fundraising for the project commenced, but proved quite a challenge. Post-war Red Deer faced one of the worst economic depressions in its history. However, despite the general shortage of money, by the following summer more than half of the $6200 needed had been raised.  Unfortunately, Red Deer City Council decided that given its financial situation, it could not contribute any money to the project. This decision reinforced the opinion of the Memorial Committee that Council’s wish to have the Cenotaph in the middle of the City Square should be ignored.

There were still a lot of hard feelings about that lack of official City participation. Eventually, City Council agreed to build a boulevard in the middle of Ross Street, west of 49 Avenue, as a site for the Cenotaph. A decision was also made to place street lights at either end of that boulevard to provide nighttime illumination of the spot.

There was another debate regarding the proper means of recording the names of those killed in the War. Some wanted tablets placed on the pedestal. However, the Memorial Committee was worried about having a complete and accurate list. Finally, it was agreed to have two scrolls prepared, one with the names of those who had served and one with the names of those who had lost their lives. Both scrolls were put into a copper tube and placed in a cavity in the pedestal.

On September 15, 1922, the Cenotaph was officially unveiled. To the delight of the community, Governor General Lord Byng of Vimy agreed to come and do the honours. Lord Byng was a hero of one of Canada’s most significant military victories, the Battle of Vimy Ridge. Vimy was also a victory that had also come with very heavy loss of life, both locally and nationally.

At the time of the official unveiling, it was reported that the Cenotaph was the first sculpture war memorial in Alberta. Once the official dedication was completed, the monument was placed into trust with the City on behalf of those who had contributed to its creation.

The Cenotaph was rededicated in 1949 to include remembrance of those who served and lost their lives in the Second World War. A plaque signifying that designation was added to the pedestal. After the completion of the new City Hall Park and the Memorial Centre in the early 1950’s. there was a push to relocate the Cenotaph from its location on Ross Street to either the centre of City Hall Park or a new site in front of the Memorial Centre. However, a plebiscite was held in 1953 in which the citizens of Red Deer voted to keep the Cenotaph were it was.

Another plaque was added in 1988 in memory of those who served and died in the Korean Conflict. At the same time, through the efforts of some dedicated members of the public, special lighting was added to ensure that the Cenotaph was highly visible at night.

There were new proposals in the 1990’s to relocate the Cenotaph to City Hall Park. However, Charlie Mac Lean, son of Lochlan MacLean and one of the last surviving people to have actually built the Cenotaph, offered the opinion that he did not think that the monument could be safely relocated.

In 2006, the Cenotaph was extensively cleaned and repaired. City Council then successfully applied to have the Cenotaph designated as a Provincial Historic Site. In 2010-2011, a beautiful Veterans’ Park was created around the Cenotaph, to enhance it and to make it more accessible to the public.  Moreover, eight interpretive panels were created to let people know the full significance of Red Deer’s official war memorial. They give the stories of those who served in the Boer War, First World War, Second World War, Korean Conflict, the Afghanistan War and all the peace-keeping and peace-making missions in which Canadians have been involved.

Lest We Forget.

Michael Dawe

Here are some other local history stories you might enjoy

The Battle of Vimy Ridge Described by Michael Dawe

Armistice Day 11/11/1918 from a Red Deer perspective in pictures and story

 

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Ag Politics

Kenney Government repeals controversial Agriculture bill introduced by former NDP government

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Minister Dreeshen with family members and workers at Tri M Farms.

From the Province of Alberta

Promise made, promise kept: Repeal Bill 6

The Farm Freedom and Safety Act has been introduced to bring forward changes to support the unique nature of the farm and ranch business.

The proposed legislation fulfils the government’s commitment to consult with farmers and ranchers to build farm workplace legislation that works for them. The government is committed to restoring balance, fairness and common sense to the regulation of Alberta’s agriculture sector by repealing and replacing the previous government’s failed Bill 6 legislation.

“We promised Albertans we would consult first and legislate second – and that’s exactly what we did. We’ve taken this feedback and built common-sense farm workplace legislation that works for people, not against them.”

Devin Dreeshen, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry

“Farmers asked for these changes to give us the flexibility to run our businesses and build a program collectively that works for everybody. This government has really listened to and responded to our concerns. Modern farms are highly safety-conscious operations and we take care of our farm workers like they are family.”

Rhonda Mulligan, Tri M Farms

“In terms of the overall shape of the industry, consultation has been a critical feature of the new government for Bill 6 and the Farm Freedom and Safety Act. We didn’t have that under the previous government in 2015 when those changes were rolled out. We are very encouraged and optimistic about the future shape of farm safety legislation in Alberta.”

Tom Steve, Alberta Wheat and Barley Commission/general manager of Alberta Barley

“The greenhouse industry is very thankful to the Government of Alberta and, in particular, to Minister Dreeshen for his support in recognizing greenhouses as farms. Being excluded from the definition of farms under the Employment Standards Code was a huge challenge for our industry and we are grateful that this has been rectified in the Farm Freedom and Safety Act.”

Albert Cramer, president, Alberta Greenhouse Growers Association

Grassroots conversations, industry meetings, engagement sessions and an online survey were just some of the ways Alberta’s farmers and ranchers gave their input on practical farm workplace rules.

Consultations

  • From July 25 to Aug. 30, 25 engagement sessions on farm workplace legislation were held across the province.
  • The public survey ran from July 12 to Aug. 31, with more than 1,200 completed submissions.

The new legislation addresses employment standards, workers’ compensation, occupational health and safety, labour relations laws and how they apply on farms and ranches.

Farm Freedom and Safety Act highlights

  • Allows employers to have choice when it comes to workplace insurance.
  • Protects family farms from legislated and regulatory cost increases.
  • Ensures basic safety standards on all farms.
  • Recognizes that a farm is unlike other businesses, and that farmers and ranchers require flexibility in meeting labour and employment standards.
  • Delivers on government’s commitment to repeal the damaging policies of the previous government to ensure sustainable farms and help get Albertans back to work. Reinstates the farm and ranch sector exemption from the Labour Relations Code.
  • Includes nursery, greenhouse, mushroom and sod operations in the farm and ranch employment standards exemptions.
  • Minimizes red tape and reduces the regulatory burden on farmers and ranchers.
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Ag Politics

Province of Alberta puts criminals on notice!

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Doug Schweitzer, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General

Ministers Jason Nixon, Rick Wilson and Doug Schweitzer announced further steps to combat rural crime, which includes expanded authorities and roles for Government of Alberta peace officers from the Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Branch, Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Branch and the Alberta Sheriffs.

From The Province of Alberta

Government announces plan to combat rural crime

The province is standing up for rural Albertans by acting on concerns to deter crime, reinforce property rights and give victims a stronger voice in the justice system.

“We are sending a strong signal to rural Albertans who have been victimized for far too long. We have listened to you. We have heard you. And we are standing with you. We want to ensure you know that we are going to do everything we can as a provincial government to help you feel safe in your communities.”

Doug Schweitzer, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General

“In many ways, rural communities are the heart of this province – hard-working, salt-of-the-earth, and always ready and willing to lend a hand to a neighbour in need. It’s heartbreaking to see the scourge of criminal activity worsen in these communities over the past several years, and we need to take action. This is an issue that affects many in my own community, and it is one that I take very seriously. As we promised, our government is taking immediate steps to make sure everyone feels safe and secure in their homes and in their communities.”

Jason Nixon, Minister of Environment and Parks

Integrating provincial peace officers

In rural areas, police can be stretched across large distances, which can lead to longer response times. To help reduce response times, the government will create the Rural Alberta Provincial Integrated Defence Force – the RAPID Force – by expanding the roles and authorities of 400 peace officers in the Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Branch, Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Branch and the traffic arm of the Alberta Sheriffs. The changes will allow these officers to respond to a wider range of calls and to assist the RCMP and other police services in some emergencies.

Training and related planning is underway, to have the first of these officers available to assist rural Albertans by fall 2020.

Strengthening property rights

To defend the rights of law-abiding property owners, the government will introduce changes to the Occupiers’ Liability Act.  These changes would eliminate the liability of law-abiding property owners who are protecting their property against trespasses who are, or who are believed to be, in the commission of a criminal act. This provision will be retroactive to Jan. 1, 2018.

To strengthen trespass laws and further defend property rights, planned legislation includes a proposed five-fold increase to the maximum fines for trespassing offences, with fines of up to $10,000 for a first violation and $25,000 for subsequent offences, as well as possible prison time of up to six months. Corporations that help or direct trespassers would face fines up to $200,000. In addition to these increases, a proposed change would increase the maximum amount a court can order for loss of or damage to property from $25,000 to $100,000.

The planned legislation would amend the Petty Trespass Act to add explicit references to better capture land used for crops, animal-rearing and bee-keeping.

A proposed biosecurity regulation under the Animal Health Act would create offences and penalties for people who enter agricultural operations without authorization or encourage others to do so. Such incidents can introduce disease and threaten the welfare of animals.

Cracking down on metal theft

Government has proclaimed the Scrap Metal Dealers and Recyclers Identification Act to deter metal theft by making it more difficult for criminals to monetize stolen material by selling it for scrap.

Metal theft is a significant public safety risk. Thieves terrify property owners by trespassing and stealing materials such as copper wire and industrial batteries and frequently damage and interfere with critical systems like electrical lines, telecommunications cables and transportation infrastructure.

Criminals often steal metal from property owners and critical infrastructure in isolated areas to avoid detection. This has also made rural Albertans a target of trespassers and thieves looking for metal.

The Scrap Metal Dealers and Recyclers Identification Act was passed in 2012, but never proclaimed. An Order in Council signed Nov. 5 puts the legislation into effect immediately.

Regulations outlining requirements on dealers and recyclers to obtain proof of identification from sellers, record and retain details of transactions and share information with law enforcement will be in place by spring 2020. There is also an immediate requirement for scrap metal dealers and recyclers to report any suspected stolen property in their possession to authorities.

A new voice for victims

Community impact statements will recognize the far-reaching effects of a crime and how an entire community can suffer harm or loss.

A new program will enable communities to take part in the sentencing of offenders by letting them submit a statement describing how the crime has affected the community as a whole – including the emotional, physical and economic impact, or fears they may have for their own security.

A community impact statement could be written on behalf of any group of people, such as those in a geographic area, diverse segments of the population, and groups affected by the crime.

Community impact statement forms will be available online in early January.

There will also be additional support for victims, via a new Restitution Recoveries Program. The program will help victims collect outstanding payments on restitution orders by giving government the authority to use enforcement measures against offenders, such as garnishing wages or seizing and selling property, as needed.

This program will reduce red tape for victims who would otherwise have to navigate the legal system and attempt to collect court-ordered restitution at their own risk, effort and expense.

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december, 2019

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