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Accommodation - The West as Home

Cultural Life

By the early-twentieth century, western Canada had developed a distinctive regional identity based not only on the Prairie landscape but on its emerging urban centres. Concerned about the social ills which often accompanied urbanism, western urban reformers, following the example of the "city beautiful" movement in the United States and Europe, strove to make growing cities like Winnipeg into humane and beautiful urban environments.

Yet it was the open expanses of the Prairies that continued to spark the imagination of western artists who created a regional art that reflected their pastoral surroundings. Other western artists were intrigued by the modernism of urban life and created city attractions like midways and vaudeville shows.

Although several immigrant groups settled in the West and helped shape its culture and identity, one of the most numerous and influential was the Ukrainians. Their strong familial, religious, and social ties ensured the establishment of a dual Ukrainian-Canadian identity that extended to their children's education. At times more-established westerners felt threatened by the evolving multicultural, polyglot nature of the region and sought to deal with what they perceived as an "immigrant invasion." Even the provincial governments in the West were publicly ambivalent about the massive influx of immigrants in the early-twentieth century.

For most arrivals in the West, however, they were concerned simply with establishing themselves and their families in a new environment. For those who arrived alone, the challenges were greater, especially for women who desired to become agricultural settlers. Not all arrivals found work or succeeded at agriculture, and with the economic depression of 1913-1915 many women and men found themselves unemployed.

By the early decades of the twentieth century, western Canada was emerging as a unique region and society. The countryside, the cities, and the people had transformed the West into a distinctive culture, one that would continue to develop in the following decades.

Further Readings

See also

Western Settlement and Steam Movies

> Next Theme: Urbanization



Tuxedo Park, Winnipeg, Manitoba, ca. 1910
Tuxedo Park, Winnipeg,
Manitoba, ca. 1910

Grain elevator at La Salle, Manitoba, 1931
Grain elevator at La Salle,
Manitoba, 1931

Fall, Assiniboine River, 1931
Fall, Assiniboine River,


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