A Calgary area MLA has proposed declaring rodeo as the official sport of Alberta. (File photo by Black Press)

A Calgary area MLA has proposed declaring rodeo as the official sport of Alberta. (File photo by Black Press)

Opinion: Rodeo shouldn’t be Alberta’s official sport

Alberta needs a lot of things from its government right now. A provincial sport is not one of them. However, bill 212 is where UCP MLA Muhammad Yaseen has decided to place his energy, and now we have to talk about it.

Selecting a province’s official sport is a process that requires a lot of cultural and sociological consideration. At the very least, the government might reflect on the province’s unifying cultural characteristics and how accessible the sport is for the majority of citizens – young and old, rich and underprivileged, men and women, rural and urban, and so forth.

The Alberta UCP’s laziness on this, however, is breathtaking. For a provincial sport, they have gone with rodeo. For the sake of discussion we will go ahead and call rodeo a sport, but it should be noted that rodeo is as much a sport as is the Olympics. The head scratching doesn’t stop at the reaching definition of sport. This choice has many Albertans wondering, why rodeo?

Few rodeo events are inclusive to women. Of the Calgary Stampede’s nine rodeo events, for example, only one is inclusive to women.

In a province that has the country’s largest gender pay gap and has recently cut funding to a pile of programs like Kin-care and Parent Link that women access in order to participate fully in the economy, a proposed provincial sport that offers women little opportunity to participate is not a welcome gesture.

The divide between rural and urban ideologies was glaring in the last two provincial elections, with the UCP claiming most rural votes. Over the last few months, however, rural UCP support has been slipping. Bill 212 could be an attempt to win back some of its voting base, but a symbolic gesture is a far cry from addressing rural Albertans’ very real concerns over cuts to agricultural research and environmental protection subsidies, as well as the effects of coal mining on the eastern slopes. And despite this bill being introduced by the Calgary-North MLA, the urban voter is completely overlooked.

Not all Albertans grow up roping calves or wrestling steers. We play soccer at recess, we skateboard after school, and we play baseball on our acreages and at our community diamonds.

In the winter, we lace up our skates and shoot pucks around on the pond. These are some of the sports that could more accurately depict Alberta life. For the vast majority of us, rodeo has nothing to do with our sense of cultural identity, and for many of us whose criticism of the events runs deep, rodeo runs in direct contrast to what being an Albertan is all about.

One nice thing about soccer, baseball, hockey, curling and skateboarding is that we don’t have to worry about making a mistake that will result in an animal needing to be euthanized. Since this proud Albertan was born in 1986, 102 animals have lost their lives at the Calgary Stampede rodeo.

The UCP has imposed a lot on us as it is. At this point, all we are asking of our government is to not make rodeo our official sport.

Shaun Hofer is an animal rights activist with Direct Action Everywhere.

Editor’s note: Do you believe rodeo should be Alberta’s official sport? Send us a letter to the editor at editorial@reddeeradvocate.com.

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