“They’re trying to take away our culture, they’re trying to take away our history,” Donald Trump complained back in 2017 about activists who call for the removal statues of Confederate and colonialist heroes.
Mr. Trump’s supporters have been loudly making their agreement known ever since, including here in Alberta where the U.S. president has plenty more fans than just Agriculture Minister Devin Dreeshen, famous for being photographed in a red MAGA hat in New York City toasting Mr. Trump’s victory four very long years ago.
So what will they say if the offending monument, in this case a plastic sign celebrating a loud-mouthed Member of Parliament with offensive views on a fairly wide range of topics, has only been in place for a day or two before some of their fellow citizens take offence and call for it to be knocked over and hauled off to the dump?
Would this too be an assault on our precious Alberta history, culture and heritage?
I speak of the sign proclaiming the Sundre Hospital and Care Centre to be the Myron Thompson Health Centre, in honour of the Reform Party, Canadian Alliance and Conservative Party Member of Parliament for the Wild Rose Riding best known for proclaiming that the term family only meant “Adam and Eve … not Adam and Steve.”
The Wild Rose Electoral District was north and west of Calgary in southwestern Alberta’s Reform Party heartland until it was abolished in 2013. The town of Sundre (pronounced Sundry) sat within its boundaries and for many years was home to Mr. Thompson, who died last year at 82 after representing the riding in Parliament from 1993 to 2008.
In 1994, when the Reform Party passed a resolution to deny family benefits to same-sex couples, Mr. Thompson demonstrated what still passes for a liberal attitude in that precursor to the Conservative Party of Canada, stating, “I do not hate homosexuals — I hate homosexuality.”
On at least one occasion during his Parliamentary career, he talked about shooting members of the media. He cultivated a cowboy image throughout his years in Ottawa, seldom being photographed without a battered Stetson. He often compared his hat to such religious and cultural head coverings as Sikh turbans or the feathered headdresses associated with the First Nations of the North American plains.
Only a certain kind of white person would say such a thing in Canada. Y’all know what I mean.
Premier Jason Kenney and the spinmeisters in Alberta Health’s PR department emphasized the history angle in their announcement yesterday — billing the “cowboy-politician” and former Sundre Mayor “a historic community leader.”
“We are connecting this place of care, healing and hope to the memory of Myron Thompson,” Premier Kenney was quoted saying with his characteristic piety in the government’s news release. “By putting his name on this hospital, we will remember the man who dedicated his entire adult life to his community,” the premier went on. Leastways, to those parts of his community that met his definition of the right kind of citizen.
“Myron was Sundre’s most famous son. He had a huge heart, and personified Alberta’s ethic of community service,” Mr. Kenney added, somewhat inaccurately.
I don’t know who is writing the premier’s lines now that his controversial speechwriter seems to have taken his racist views and moved along, but while Mr. Thompson may have been Monte Vista, Colorado’s most famous son, he certainly wasn’t Sundre’s, for what should be obvious reasons. That presumably would have been Nels T. Hagen, first postmaster of the place, current population 2,700.
In addition to Premier Kenney, Health Minister Tyler Shandro, Environment Minister Jason Nixon, who is also the local MLA, and Alberta Health Services CEO Verna Yiu were on hand for the dedication.
“Mr. Thompson … fought passionately to make life better for all his neighbours,” (some of them, anyway) said Mr. Shandro. He represented “the residents of his community with his honest voice and sincerity,” agreed Mr. Nixon. I suppose one could even make a case that part was true.
Dr. Yiu seems to have had the good sense to keep her lips zipped. While nothing was said about who made the decision to bestow Mr. Thompson’s name on the hospital, you can count on it that it wasn’t anyone at AHS.
The rather florid news release described Mr. Thompson as a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, a selling point in many corners of southern Alberta. More sober sources suggest he was a veteran of the less glamourous U.S. Army.
It also included the oft-repeated yarn that Mr. Thompson once tried out for the New York Yankees and played semi-pro ball. Whether or not Mr. Thompson actually played for the Denver Bears, once a Yankees farm team, remains a topic of minor controversy. The Sporting News Baseball Yearbook once told a reporter there was no record of anyone with that name playing for the team.
The eulogistic news release didn’t mention Mr. Thompson’s frequent appearance near the top of various “worst MP” lists, or that time when he helped hire a private detective from the United States to dig up dirt on the Liberal government. That turned into a significant embarrassment for Canadian Alliance Leader Stockwell Day.
Well, whatever. Sundre’s health centre is probably stuck with the name of the town’s famous non-son, even if some Albertans complain that public buildings really ought not to be named after people who advocate discrimination against and show disrespect for members of our larger provincial community.
Our history and heritage, not to mention talk of “cancel culture,” are bound to crop up if anyone dares to suggest that.
Well, at least they didn’t build a statue of the man, lest somebody drive out to Sundre and knock the damned thing over!
The news release concludes: “The Myron Thompson Health Centre … will continue to operate as the hospital for Sundre and area, with 24-hour emergency services, 14 acute-care beds, five long-term care beds and four restorative care beds.”
And so it will remain, at least until Mr. Shandro decides to shut it down to save a buck.