Regina a rural city

FTLComm - Regina - Monday, March 15, 2010

I grew up  in a village with 79 other people so my first acquaintance with Regina was that I was very much in awe of that many people all living in one place. It had street lights, department stores, a railway yard, street cars and on Scarth and 11th (right), Whistlin' Willy, the traffic cop who moved people safely across the busy steet each and every day. To me Regina was the big time.

My guess is that nothing about that has changed. If you grew up on a farm or in a little village or hamlet today, Regina would seem like a massive urban community, but the scale of things have changed. I moved to Regina to go to college in 1962 when something like 80% of Canada's population lived in places like the village I grew up in and most of Canada's cities were not much bigger than Regina. Certainly, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver were exceptions to that, but most of Canada was definitely rural, by today's standards.

Today, Canada is a much different place than in 1962, Canadians are more and more concentrating themselves in urban areas coast to coast. In 1962 it was rare to see First Nations people in Saskatoon or Regina, now they comprise almost half of the population of the two largest cities in Saskatchewan. Saskatchewan has around a million citizens with half of them in Regina and Saskatoon. Prince Albert and Moose Jaw are less than half the size of Regina each, while the next two largest cities are the two fastest growing ones, Swift Current and Yorkton. The other cities of Saskatchewan, a Saskatchewan city is a mere 5,000 people, are really nothing more than large towns.

The villages and towns of Saskatchewan continually are shrinking and Regina and Saskatoon are continually growing. Saskatoon is reaching the point where it is almost one third larger than Regina and it is likely to just keep on growing. Industries and development in Regina and Saskatoon seem similar, while Regina is the seat of government with the crown corporations having their head offices there.

What we need to realise is that because Canada has become such an urban country it's cities are being redefined by the sprawl of Vancouver with its many satelite cities and Torornto which no longer refers to itself as a city, but as the "GTA" (Greater Toronto Area). Even Winnipeg with more than half a million population is considered a small city while Edmonton and Calgary set the standard for Canadian growing urban communities.

This past week there were several news stories about the increasing percentage of visible minorities who are making Canada their home and Statistics Canada is predicting that based on the present trends these visible minorities will become the majority of Canadians by 2031. The remarkable thing is that Canada needs immigration to fuel its need for workers and a critical mass of population to provide itself with the bulk of a competitive marketplace. Natural growth by birth of Canadian babies is simply not up to this growth challenge and the Canadian birth rate, particularily in Quebec is just at, or below, replacement level. (Quebec is the first North American jurisdiction to fund in vitro fertilisation procedures.)

As Canadians consider what sort of society Canada is they have to see it as a dynamic and fluid sort of place. Not the land of wheat, timber and mines that it once was but a place that is taking on a new identity, one that is being shaped by the demands of the world and the history of the countries its newcomers are leaving to settle in this place of cities.

In a brief recent visit to Regina I was struck by the racial and cultural diversity of the place that was once ethnically pretty much the same as that portion of south eastern Saskatchewan where I grew up. English with a sprinkling of French, Scotts and a few Hungarians. But the Regina of today is a different place. In the Mcdonalds on Dewdney and Albert Street almost all of the customers were First Nations people and almost all of the staff in the place were from the Philipines. In the SuperStore one felt like you were at a UN conference with flowing robes and people of every colour. Regina is a different place and become more and more different as the years move along. Get used to it.

Timothy W. Shire

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