Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - June 8, 1973, Lethbridge, Alberta
18 THI IITHBKIDGI HSXAlD Mdoy, 8, 197f Hutterites Southern Alberta Part 3 of a 4-part special report Towns harbor bad feelings By GREG McINTYRE Herald Staff Writer Anti-Hutterite feeling in the Vulcan area is very strong. Vulcan is a town fighting for its life. The two facts must be viewed together. On a very fragile econom- ic base, Vulcan is support- ing a nine-hole golf a skating rink, a municipal swimming pool and a street- paving program. Located in a large grain- growing area mid-way be- tween Calgary and Leth- bridge, Vulcan has been hit hard by the declining rural population. Vulcan is the service cen- tre for a relatively large square mile area. But aside from its large capacity grain elevators and a fierce civic pride, the town has virtually nothing to en- sure its future survival as a major rural centre of popu- lation. The town would like to at- tract tourist dollars, but un- fortunately the majority of tourist traffic in the area is attracted to the more scenic foothills country to the west. It was hardly surprising that the Vulcan Chamber of Commerce led a citizens' protest in Edmonton in Feb- ruary calling for restrictions on large land holdings. Vulcan residents feel the demonstration has been mis- interpreted as bigoted anti- Hutterite sentiment. Dave Mitchell, a Vulcan druggist who spearheaded the demonstration, and Cliff Wright, president of the Vul- can C of C, says their con- cern is with all large land holdings, not just the Hutter- ites. Many Vulcan area res- idents charge that there is a serious misunderstanding about the plight of rural Al- berta. The word isn't getting through to Edmonton that something must be done to limit large farm units which are forcing the small farmer off the land, they say. Mr. Mitchell says dem- ocracy has broken down when the government will only listen to pressure groups. Mr. Wright claims people in the cities don't under- stand the economic prob- lems of the small town busi- nessman and look on Hutter- ites as a tourist attraction. Another town businessman said he has no complaint against the Hutterites doing most of their shopping in the larger centres, because many Vulcan residents go to Calgary and Lethbridge to shop. But he said the Hutterites are a problem to places like Vulcan because they don't support recreation and so- cial facilities like the small farmers they are replacing do. Harsh anti Hutterite atti- tudes in A'ulcan make a striking contrast to the more tolerant attitudes in a place like Magrath with slightly less population than Vulcan, but many times the number of Hutterite colonies nearby. Magrath, population has five Hutterite colonies 20 miles of town some established since 1918 when the first Hutterites moved into Alberta from South Dakota. Vulcan, population has no colony that close to town and only two in the en- tire county. Yet tiie difference seems to be that Vulcan residents are on guard against the smallest threat to their live- lihood, while Magrath res- idents have lived with Hut- terites for so long, it seems too late to worry. There are anti-Hutterite feelings in Magrath, but they remain below the surface. In Vulcan strong attitudes against the religious sect are out in the open. The mayor of Vulcan, Del McQueen, is disturbed by the anti-Hutterite image his town has gained and tries to play tVim the issue. Mr- McQueen says he per- sonally respects the Hutter- ites, yet can't get embroiled in the issue because a large segment of the area feel strongly that restrictions must be placed on colony ex- pansion. The mayor of Magrath, Pingree Tanner, on the ether hand, is an open defender of the Hutterites, praising their integrity and contributions to the area. Yet even in the tolerant climate of Magrath, it wouldn't take much to stir up feelings against the Hut- terites. Phil Carter, the owner of an auto mobile dealership that his father started in Ma- grath in 1927, spoke for many when he said that further colony expansion close to town would be resented. "If the colonies come any closer to town, they might as well close it down A major complaint is that the Hutterites are such com- petitive businessmen that they get the lowest price, squeezing down prof- its that the town merchants normally expect to make from smaller, less efficient customers. Vulcan PHIL CARTER Magrath auto dealer Main street Magrath Democracy doesn't tvork Vulcan pharmacist Dave Mitchell was one of the prime movers behind a demonstration on the steps of the legislature in Edmonton Feb. 23 at which the government was asked to set re- strictions on the size and location of land hold- ings in rural Alberta. Mr. Mitchell complains that democracy doesn't work when people have to resort to demonstrations to get their heard. No place Vulcan Advocate newspaper assistant editor Pete Pickersgill has followed the Hutterite con- troversy in his paper for years. Mr. Pickersgill is typical of the hard-line taken by many in the Vulcan area, saying "there is no place in the Canadian way of life for people like the Hut- terites. In crossfire Vulcan Mayor Del McQueen, is caught in the crossfire between his own admiration for the Hutterites and bad feeling against the religious sect by many residents of his town. Mr. McQueen says he is embarrassed to be asked what all the fuss is about in Vulcan everywhere he goes. Magrath principal Mograth High School Principal Grant Wheeler, who once taught school on a Hutterite colony, like many townsfolk would like to see Hutterite children in town schools. The Hutterites, however, fear that sending their youngsters to school off the colony would be c first step to losing their loyalty to colony beliefs.