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FORBES: A Picture of Christmas in the Old West

By celebrating Christmas, we take part in a tradition that connects us from generation to generation and inspires us to press forward “as in olden days.”

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Like most people this time of year, I have had Christmas songs bouncing around in my head for the past several weeks. During one particularly festive onslaught on the radio, I heard “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Although I have heard this song too many times before, this time one of the lyrics stood out to me: “Here we are as in olden days, happy golden days of yore.” This line seemed to capture something about the Christmas season that often goes unappreciated: by upholding Christmas traditions, we have the chance to re-connect with our past.

This idea got me wondering: what was Christmas like in previous generations here in the West? I decided to do some digging into the digital archives. I was delighted to find a few old newspapers that captured a little snapshot of what Christmas was like for our ancestors a hundred years ago.

Long before the modern conveniences of online shopping, minivans, and central heating, Westerners had very few comforts to get them through the harsh winters. Christmas celebrations provided a necessary reprieve from the intensive and sometimes monotonous routines required for winter survival in the Old West.

School Christmas concert in Alberta in 1930 (Source: Provincial Archives of Alberta, WikiCommons)

In 1900, one author from Agassiz, BC wrote in the Outlook, “It is Christmas-time, and sometimes then we take more leisurely count of time.” He described his family’s efforts to make their home cozy for the holiday: “We have built a new house in a clearing in the British Columbia forest and there are open fireplaces; on their brick hearths we burn logs of cedar, of maple, and pine… the logs crackling and flickering.” To mark the season, their family sang Christmas carols together and told stories around the open fire.

In 1929, an article from Red Deer, Alberta described local Christmas traditions. The article explained that the church was the centerpiece for the community, and that they would decorate their church with evergreen branches and the traditional Nativity set pieces. The article said, “The greatest charm of Christmas is the decorated church, the power which makes man see beyond the bare walls of the church and which carries him back through the ages to worship with the shepherds at the manger cot in Bethlehem.”

Interior of a church at Christmas time in Metlakahtla, BC (Source: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, WikiCommons)

The 1929 article also reflected on the traditional stories of St. Nicholas coming down the chimney, and joked, “Just fancy the catastrophe that might befall the world if it became the fashion to build houses without chimneys.” If only they could see the jumble of apartments stacked upon apartments in most Canadian cities today, with no sign of a proper fireplace for miles around.

As with today, Christmas in the Old West was also a time for charity. Church groups regularly tapped into the spirit of the season by putting together donation bundles for people in need. An article from 1934 (in the middle of the Great Depression) reported that Winnipeg was a centre for shipping over 7,000 pounds of clothes, toys, and gifts to communities all around southern Manitoba where farming families had been struggling due to drought. After a year of terrible hardship, such donations would no doubt have helped thousands of families to “make Christmas merry” at a time when they may not have believed it was possible.

I found another article from 1930 with the surprising title, “Near Starvation, Farmers Cheerful.” It spoke about how Christmas brought hope to people struggling at the start of the Depression in northern Saskatchewan. Farming families who were often “burdened with big debts due for the payment of agricultural implements and grocery bills” could be found “rallying around the Church and cheerily learning Christmas carols.” Even when people had no money to offer charity, they helped each other out in other ways by milking cows, collecting eggs, and keeping each other company.

Christmas tree in Calgary, Alberta in 1910 (Source: Provincial Archives of Alberta, WikiCommons)

Their experiences may serve as an example to those of us today who are also going through hard economic times this Christmas. Westerners have gotten through such times before by relying upon each other, working hard, and looking to our traditions for a sense of purpose and inspiration. And we can do it again.

That’s one of the great things about reading our history. It reminds us that no matter the hardship, we in the West have always found a way to triumph over adversity. I hope this Christmas gives you the chance to spend quality time with your families, to celebrate the foundation of your faith, and to enjoy some great food. But in addition to all that, I hope you also take a moment to remember the “happy golden days of yore.” By celebrating Christmas, we take part in a tradition that connects us from generation to generation and inspires us to press forward “as in olden days.”

James Forbes is a columnist for the Western Standard. He has a PhD in History and writes about the history of politics, culture, and religion in Canada. (Twitter: @TartanTie)

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Is ‘Paw Patrol’ capitalist propaganda? This professor on the CBC thinks so.

Is the children’s show is turning our tikes into tiny-tea partiers & miniature minarchists?

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Everyone with a Netflix account and young children can sing most of the introductory title song of Paw Patrol, however much we wish we couldn’t.

“PAW Patrol, PAW Patrol. We’ll be there on the double!… No job’s too big. No pup’s too small! PAW Patrol, we’re on a roll!” etc.

I put it on for a few hours a day to distract my toddler while I try to get something – anything – done around the house. But while I thought that she was learning about teamwork, friendship, and helping her community, lo and behold, she was learning to support the capitalist patriarchy. Or so says a professor interviewed by the CBC’s Rebecca Zandbergen.

In an interview with criminology professor Liam Kennedy, he lays out – much to my surprise – how the repetitive children’s show is turning our tikes into tiny-tea-partiers and miniature minarchists.

“He [my son] has now internalized my feelings about the series and knows that we don’t in fact watch Paw Patrol in our house,” said the professor on the CBC’s London Mornings show.

The professor didn’t just stop his own son from watching the capitalist cartoon. He published an entire report on it: ‘Crime, Conservation and Corporatization in Paw Patrol’. In it, he lays out just how this pack of pups is brainwashing Canada’s children.

“I’ll start with the depiction of the state. Mayor Humdinger and Mayor Goodway — kind of the representatives of the state or the government – are portrayed negatively. Mayor Humdinger is portrayed as unethical or corrupt. Mayor Goodway as hysterical, bumbling, incompetent.”

Ostensibly, the professor believes that any portrayal of government officials as anything other than ethical, calm, collected and competent, is dangerous.

“She immediately calls the Paw Patrol…and so I would argue that the Paw Patrol – as a private corporation – is used to help provide basic social services in the Adventure Bay community…That’s problematic in that the Paw Patrol creators are sending this message that we can’t depend on the state to provide these services. That private corporations – private enterprise – can provide these services to the community.”

Kennedy also felt that the fictional children’s cartoon was not overly realistic in its portrayal of Chase, the German Shepherd police dog.

“It was a show, kind of emphasizing the benevolence of police officers, and, that struck a chord with me. You know, I felt that that wouldn’t speak to a lot of radicalized and marginalized communities, families and children.

With two German Shepherds in our home, it’s not surprising that Chase was my two-year-old’s favourite character. She even calls their collars “Pup Tags” now. But our dogs have not yet engaged in any racist brutalization of the minorities living in our neighbourhood. To help our toddler see Chase for the capitalist pig that he is, we will consider starting a “Poodle Lives Matter” campaign the next time we’re at the dog park.

To be fair to the CBC’s Rebecca Zandbergen, she didn’t appear to buy the theory hook-line-and-sinker.

“So even if what you’re saying is true…how susceptible might a three, a two, a four-year-old be to these underlying messages that you say exist?”

The professor seems to think very susceptible.

“Some children may internalize messages about mistrust of the state. Or, this show puts a lot of responsibility on individuals to go out and recycle, to protect the environment. It places a lot of faith in private corporations…

What a libertarian hellscape, where individuals are expected to take responsibility for their impact on the world, and not rely on the government to do everything for them.

Zandbergen thought this line of argument a bit much even for a CBC audience.

“There are some good messages, in encouraging people to recycle, right?

Professor Kennedy wasn’t having any of it.

“I mean I think everybody should recycle, but I think we should also depend on the state to facilitate that recycling process…”

Zandbergen to her credit pressed on, asking if there was “anything redeeming about the show?” What about, “No job is too big, no pup is too small?”

“To me that’s an individualist message. Pull up your boot straps. You can do it if you just try hard enough. That kind of message ignores structural barriers in our society and not everyone can do it.”

Zandbergen’s interview has been widely shared in Canadian conservative and libertarian online circles, possibly because the CBC’s headline, “Does Paw Patrol encourage our kids to embrace capitalism?” appears to be an implicit endorsement of the professor’s thesis. At most news outlets, headlines are written by editors, and not authors, and this appears to be most likely the case here. In fact, Zandbergen appears to be politely holding back her laughter during the on-air interview.

But if Zandbergen wasn’t particularly convinced by the professor’s post-modernist intersectionalism, someone at the CBC appears to have been.

But maybe the professor does have a point. Paw Patrol – much as it annoys me as it plays in the background – is teaching our children something: mistrust of state, individual responsibility, and voluntary community mindedness.

So I’ll keep on a little longer today. With any luck, my daughter won’t grow up to be a professor writing intersectional nonsense on the government dime.

You can watch the full CBC interview HERE.

Derek Fildebrandt is Publisher of the Western Standard, and President & CEO of Wildrose Media Corp.

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SELICK: Coronavirus’s asymptomatic carriers

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Reports of coronavirus patients who show none of the usual symptoms – fever, coughing, or shortness of breath – are both good news and bad news. 

First, the bad. The existence of these so-called asymptomatic carriers will undoubtedly bolster arguments for wholesale violations of civil liberties. Wuhan – China’s seventh largest city with 11 million inhabitants – has already been quarantined. That’s more than a minor inconvenience. Prohibiting the movement of people into and out of so large a city will quickly wreak economic havoc not only on those 11 million, but also on the millions they customarily trade with.   

History’s most famous asymptomatic carrier was probably Typhoid Mary. Born Mary Mallon, she migrated from Ireland to the U.S. in the 1880s and held a series of jobs as a live-in cook for affluent New York families. Everywhere she went, people fell ill with typhoid fever. Some died; many were hospitalized; but Mary herself remained healthy. She was imprisoned from 1907 to 1910 as a public safety measure, but eventually won her freedom by promising to cease working as a cook. However, being a laundress didn’t pay very well, so she soon adopted a pseudonym and returned to cooking. For another five years, typhoid epidemics broke out wherever she went. She was re-arrested in 1915 and quarantined until her death 23 years later.  

Scientists of Mary’s day tried to establish what made her immune. Typhoid bacteria were found in many of her stool samples and in her gallbladder after her death. But the research tools available 82 years ago were primitive compared with today’s. 

So here’s the good news. The existence of asymptomatic carriers presents a golden opportunity to determine what makes some people impervious to the virus while others succumb. Will the opportunity be used effectively? 

There’s a 125-year-old controversy that many people, including doctors and scientists, are unaware of. French scientist Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) is well known as the father of modern germ theory—the belief that illness occurs when foreign microbes such as bacteria and viruses invade the body. However, his colleague, Claude Bernard (1813-1878), held a somewhat different theory – the terrain theory – which held that the determining factor in who became ill was the state of the patient’s internal “soil” or terrain. 

Pasteur, incidentally, was no angel, despite his historical glorification. He has been described as an unlikeable person and an unethical scientist who falsified data to produce the results he wanted from experiments. But he was apparently a great self-promoter, unlike Bernard and another French scientist, Antoine Béchamp (1816-1908) who agreed with Bernard. Both B’s died in obscurity.

Reportedly, Pasteur recanted on his deathbed, saying: “Bernard avait raison. Le germe n’est rien, c’est le terrain qui est tout.” (Bernard was right. The microbe is nothing, the soil is everything.) Writer Susan Dorey tried to trace this story back to its source but was stymied by her inability to read French and consult original French sources. 

The terrain theory makes sense when you consider that North Americans who travel to third world countries frequently get gastrointestinal upsets that the natives seem impervious to. Likewise, farmers who routinely drink raw (unpasteurized) milk often aren’t troubled by the digestive symptoms that strike some people trying it for the first time.  

Regardless of whether Pasteur recanted or not, coronavirus and its asymptomatic patients now present us with an excellent opportunity to examine why some people are vulnerable to its ravages while others aren’t, despite their exposure. 

There are several possible explanations. Maybe immunity is genetic. Maybe it depends on the state of your nutrition. But a third possibility is that it depends upon the state of the infected person’s terrain, primarily the gut microbiome. This is turn might be affected by what a person eats, what nutritional supplements he takes, what toxins or antibiotics he has been exposed to, whether he was breast- or bottle-fed, and even whether he was born by Caesarian section. 

Scientific interest in the microbiome, and the interaction between bacteria and viruses, has exploded in recent years, with the development of gene mapping technology. Let’s hope it will be applied intelligently to the coronavirus challenge. 

Meanwhile, I’m planning to take extra care of my gut, by increasing my consumption of sauerkraut (unpasteurized, of course), kefir, kombucha, and prebiotic and probiotic supplements.

Karen Selick is the Copy Editor and a Columnist for the Western Standard. She has previously written for he original Western Standard, National Post, Canadian Lawyer Magazine. She is the former Litigation Lawyer of the Canadian Constitution Foundation and is the owner of KeenEyesEditing.ca.

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Top Ten Good News Stories: 2019 Edition

Western Standard brings you the top 10 stories sure to make Westerns smile back on 2019.

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2019 was not a good year for Western Canada. With a few exceptions, most news concerning our half of the country was unrelentingly negative. But good things did happen (most of them elsewhere), and the beginning of a new decade seems a suitable time to reflect back on the stories that made Westerners smile.

10. Don Cherry’s private podcast received the highest listenership in Canada shortly after being dismissed by Sportsnet-CBC for his politically incorrect soliloquy on Coach’s Corner. Debate raged over if his comments were genuinely racist, or just the latest example of puritanical cancel culture censoring anything controversial. Lost in most of the debate was the hypocrisy of most left-leaning Canadians voting to keep a man who engaged in the unquestionably racist act of blackface, while demanding that Canada’s uncle be fired for speaking his mind. 


9. Western Canada is more united than it has been in years, with the notable exception of BC. The bloc of blue on election night spoke more loudly than all the rallies or convoys ever could. As it was in 1980 under Trudeau Sr., the Liberals do not hold a single seat between Winnipeg and Vancouver. It’s unlikely the voice of the West will be listened in substance, but if they don’t get the message now, they likely never will.  

8. Western Independence is back with a vengeance. While federalists might not view this as positive, it has got the attention of the Laurentians and as every negotiator knows, to be successful you need an ‘or else’. The question is, if the federalists don’t take the ‘or else’ seriously, can the sovereigntist movement move beyond shouting, to become a serious threat?

7. Teck Resources’ Frontier oil sands mine (sort of) approved. It took ten years and still requires approval from feds, but it’s good news and would create 7,000 jobs if Justin Trudeau allows it to go ahead. If he chooses to side with the climate extremists, it’s likely that the still rag-tag sovereigntist movement will see a flood of new recruits. 

6. Polar bears are back. Long the symbol of apocalyptic climate predictions, the polar bear has increased in numbers to the point where they are causing problems for northern communities. Good news for the bears, bad news for the climate extremists in search of a new icon.



5. The world is growing greener. According to NASA, leaf cover on Earth has increased by two million square miles since the early 2000s. That’s more than half the size of Canada and a five per cent increase from two decades ago. The two primary factors causing this are hyper-efficient agriculture and increased CO2, which depending on your worldview is either plant food, or earth-ending pollution.

4. ISIS was defeated and its leader Al-Baghdadi is dead. It’s difficult to tell exactly how much of this is responsible for a 52 per cent worldwide reduction in deaths from acts of terrorism, but it has surely played a significant part. After 20 years of chasing terrorists in never-ending foreign wars, its finally some good news. 



3. Boris Johnson destroyed Corbyn’s Labour Party in the UK election. Brexit will go ahead, the outcome of the referendum respected. Since Britons voted to leave the EU, globalists have lamented the push back against centralized political and economic control, while patriotic movements have looked to it for hope.

2. Hong Kong still stands strong against all odds, and has not (yet) been overrun by China’s nouveau-communist regime. The courage of freedom fighters in Hong Kong is inspiring, and the sight of its students standing up against tyranny contrasts with students in Western countries demanding free tuition and safe spaces. 

Credit: NDP website



1. The NDP lost their bid for re-election on April 16th, making them Alberta’s first one-term government in its history, and ending the province’s socialist experiment that arguably began with Alison Redford. As Rachel Notley failed to gain “social license” from her green allies, Albertans had little time for punishing economic policies with little gain in sight. It remains to be seen if Jason Kenney’s tough talk with Ottawa can produce anything but headlines, or if more drastic measures will be required. 

Bonus: An aspiring modern Michelangelo duct taped a banana to a wall and sold it for $120,000, presumably as art. In front of a crowd of stunned onlookers, another artist ate it claiming his snack was an ‘art performance’ titled ‘Hungry Artist’. The Western Standard does not endorse vandalism, but we struggle to place this in the same category. 

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