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in Pre-1905 Alberta

Becoming a Province




2005 - 100 years
of volunteers


Oil RefineryPost war Alberta enjoyed a period of unprecedented growth and overall prosperity. Many ‘displaced persons,’ a term for Europeans, who came to Canada after the Second World War and settled in Alberta, were skilled trades people or professionals who naturally gravitated to urban areas where employment was most likely. War Brides, with the help of the Red Cross, made the long journey to Alberta and were united with their husbands.

With the oil boom, American immigrants and American-owned oil companies and moved in. The social trend for this era was mass consumerism and American media dominated influences via film, magazines, records, and a new fixture in the living rooms of most homes — television.

Revitalized churches, women’s groups, community halls, and organizations such as the YWCA and the YMCA increased programs and/or volunteer participation to accommodate Alberta’s growing urban population.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s the Canadian government’s Immigration Act limited non-white immigration. The Chinese Exclusion Act (1923) was repealed in 1947 so that Chinese-Canadians could sponsor relatives. In 1951, small quotas of South Asians from Commonwealth countries: India, Pakistan, and Ceylon (Sri Lanka) were allowed to immigrate into Canada. Most of these newcomers settled in urban areas. Like all new immigrants to Alberta, they aligned themselves and joined together to build new cultural, religious and social organizations that were largely supported by volunteer efforts and some government assistance programs. In 1967, Canadian immigration loosened its non-white policies so thousands more immigrants from these groups arrived in Alberta.

Throughout this urban growth, rural Alberta held their own. Changing technology revolutionized farming practices, reducing the need for farm hands. Small hamlets and villages faded into oblivion. The exodus to urban areas allowed some farmers to increase their holdings. Successive good crops and Prime Minister John Diefenbaker’s enormous wheat sales to China and the Soviet Union helped farmers’ bank accounts.

In the 1960s, many new volunteer organizations sprung up such as the Calgary Stampede Board. Alberta’s universities and their booming student population created a shortage of staff, which led to active recruitment of American professors. Other new academic input came from Eastern Canada, Europe and Asia. New perceptions and cosmopolitan flavours spilled into Alberta’s local arts and cultural scene.

Coste House

Formed by volunteers, organizations such as Alberta Society of Artists, the Women’s Musical Club, Canadian Handicraft Guild, and the Allied Arts Council began and opened the door to professionalism. For example, the Citadel Theatre got its start in 1965: The mastermind behind professional theatre in Edmonton was Joe Shoctor, an arts promoter, real estate developer, and lawyer.

The Banff School of Fine Arts, which was started well before the Second World War, expanded their programs and attracted world class local, national and international talent. In the post war years, the Provincial Institute of Technology and Art was further developed by Canadian artist, Illingworth Kerr, with the Department of Art renamed in 1960 to The Alberta College of Art, the technological school became The Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT). In 1962, the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology opened. In 1970, Grant MacEwan Community College opened by offering vocational and non-university credited programs.

Musically, the British Invasion hit North America in the mid 60s when the Ed Sullivan Show introduced an English group called the Beatles. Hair, fashion, music, philosophical trends and opinions were reshaped by baby boomers, who fought the status-quo and their parents’ views of life and traditional roles. The impetus behind the Counter Culture Movement in the 60s and 70s, was spurned on by resistance to the Vietnam War, the feminist movement, and human rights issues, particularly the Civil Rights movement in the US. Peace marches, sit-ins, hippies, free love, psychedelic drugs, and formerly taboo subjects such as abortion and domestic violence were now openly discussed.

Peter LougheedAfter 25 years in power, leading a prosperous economy, the Social Credit party was defeated by Peter Lougheed and the Conservative party in 1971. The Conservatives offered what Albertans wanted and that was a media-savvy government whose campaign slogan was "NOW!" a government that embraced free-enterprise policies, and a new government with a young leader who gave middle- and upper-middle class Albertans respectability and political clout.

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Volunteerism in Alberta: 100 years of Celebrating Community

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