Rodeo has always been synonymous with the west and its ranch and rural lifestyle. In Canada, the Calgary Stampede bills itself at the “greatest outdoor show on earth,” with thousands flocking to the Alberta city to partake in the 10-day event that centres on a world-famous rodeo.
Now, rodeo is well on its way to being declared Alberta’s official sport. On March 29, Calgary Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) Muhammad Yaseen introduced a private member’s bill doing just that, and it passed unanimously. Next step is for the bill to be debated in the provincial legislature.
“Alberta has the richest rodeo culture in all of Canada,” Yaseen told the Calgary Eyeopener. “Ranchers are compassionate stewards of the land and their livestock. So it’s a cultural thing.”
Not everyone would agree, however. Setting aside the province’s legions of rabid hockey fans, rodeos come with plenty of controversy surrounding the treatment of animals from animal rights activists and others. The Stampede’s infamous chuckwagon race have regular horse fatalities.
“When I heard about this, I thought, yeah, a lot of people are not going to like this, and I know the animal rights activists aren’t going to like it. The urban people say, you know, we play hockey. You know, what about curling …,” Val Fortney, a Calgary writer told the CBC. “It’s an interesting idea. It’s a nod to the past and to part of a very deeply ingrained, very distinct and different culture that you can find only in Alberta — that revolves around a sport.”
It’s also not the first time a politician has tried to run with the idea. Kevin Taft, once the leader of the Liberal opposition, brought forward a similar motion in 2008, but it didn’t pass the introduction phase. This time around, if the province passes the declaration, Alberta will join Wyoming, North Dakota and Texas in naming rodeo its official sport.
The Canadian Professional Rodeo Association has called on rodeo fans to write to their MLAs in support of Yaseen’s bill. Stay tuned…