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Alberta Online Encyclopedia
Throughout Alberta's history as a province, Anglophones have acted as the dominant player in the political arena. When France ceded Canada to England in 1760, French was the language of the majority in the province. However, the new Legislative Assembly quickly made English the only language of debate and education. In the 1890s, the French community recognized that politics was a critical tool for ensuring the survival of the French language and religious rights. The Canadian government was actively promoting Anglo-Canadian values, and new immigrants were discouraged from using their native languages. Focusing on issues of language rights and separate schools, Antonio Prince was elected in the constituency of St. Albert in 1891. He was unable, however, to prevent the province from adopting motions in 1892 to make English the only language of the Legislature or prevent the dissolution of Roman Catholic school boards.
French community and political leaders were particularly active in the period following Alberta's incorporation as a province in 1905, and would achieve some early success. The Liberal party gained a great deal of support during this era from the French population. The most influential political figure in the French at the time was Dr. Philippe Roy, an Edmonton politician who served as a Senator between 1905 and 1911. By 1913, there were five Members of the Legislative Assembly to represent French interests. However, the Liberals were toppled by the United Farmers of Alberta (UFA) in 1921. According to Donald B. Smith, the division in the Francophone community, first between the Liberals and the UFA and later between the Social Credit Party and the Liberals, weakened their already diminishing political influence.
During the 1930s, Francophone politician Lucien Maynard would emerge as influential supporter of the popular Social Credit Party. The young French-Canadian lawyer was repeatedly elected to the Legislature and and at one point served as the Minister of Municipal Affairs 1936. He would represent French-Albertans until 1957.
Historically, rural communities have been the most active political force, and Franco-Albertans elected at least one French-speaking representative to the Senate between 1905 and 1934, and from 1941 to 1958.
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