Monday, July 07, 2008

Jimmy Gardiner's Lemberg debate, 2008

Jimmy Gardiner, totemic figure of Prairie liberalism, former premier of Saskatchewan, and former Canadian Minister of Agriculture, has been dead since 1962, but he became controversial again when his friends and descendents objected to the fictional "Jimmy Gardiner" in the television drama Prairie Giant in 2006.

My advice then was that those who didn't like Prairie Giant's take on Jimmy Gardiner should put forth their own interpretations, rather than trying to ban or rewrite the movie. My essay based on interviews with several Jimmy Gardiner scholars, published in The Beaver, is available here.

In that line, the Rural History and Culture Association of Saskatchewan did great work this weekend by recreating the pivotal 1928 debate between Premier Gardiner and R.H. Hawkins of the Ku Klux Klan.

In 1928 the Klan was looking to exploit anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic sentiment to rebuild rightwing strength in Saskatchewan. Even thought the Conservatives did take power in Saskatchewan during the depression, Gardiner's courageous stand against the Klan is credited with preventing the implantation of that nativist and bigoted strain in Saskatchewan politics.

Both the 1928 original and the 2008 recreation were held in Gardiner's home town of Lemberg. This weekend a thousand people (!) came to hear the recreation. Media attention was extensive. And look at the list of sponsors and supporters for the event on that link. Well done, Rural History and Culture Association.

Hmmm, what other great Canadian debates could be recreated so successfully? Now if there were to be a Harper-Dion debate on climate change and carbon taxation.....

Meanwhile, Saskatchewanians are recreating John Diefenbaker's speeches too.
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