Louis Riel Day
Louis Riel was a passionate Métis leader. He was a catalyst in the events that occurred making Manitoba become Canada’s fifth province and joining confederation in 1870. Louis Riel had a dream of a civilized world that embraces all cultures. This dream is celebrated by all Manitobans on Louis Riel Day.
Why Remember Louis Riel?
Louis Riel is recognized as an advocate of justice for the Métis people, but he represents much more. He helped lay the framework for minority rights and cultural co-operation, and is regarded as a founder of Manitoba. It is very important to remember Louis Riel’s contribution to Canada and specifically to recall that he was executed for being a persistent advocate for the rights of his people.
Commemorating Louis Riel
A resolution was passed by parliament citing that Louis Riel was the Founder of Manitoba on 10 March 1992.
Two statues of Riel are located in Winnipeg. One of the Winnipeg statues, the work of architect Étienne Gaboury and sculptor Marcien Lemay, depicts Riel as a naked and tortured figure. It was unveiled in 1970 and stood in the grounds of the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba for 23 years. After much outcry (especially from the Métis community) that the statue was an undignified misrepresentation, the statue was removed and placed at the Collège universitaire de Saint-Boniface. It was replaced in 1994 with a statue designed by Miguel Joyal depicting Riel as a dignified statesman. The unveiling ceremony was on 16 May 1996, in Winnipeg.
In numerous communities in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and even in Ontario, Riel is commemorated in the names of streets, schools, and other buildings (such as the Louis Riel School Division in Winnipeg). The student centre and campus pub at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon are named after Riel. Highway 11, stretching from Regina to just south of Prince Albert, has been named Louis Riel Trail by the province; the roadway passes near locations of the 1885 rebellion. One of the student residences at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia is named Louis Riel House.
On 26 September 2007, Manitoba legislature passed a bill establishing a statutory holiday on the third Monday in February as Louis Riel Day, the same day some other provinces celebrate Family Day, beginning in 2008. The first Louis Riel Day was celebrated on 18 February 2008. This new statutory holiday coincides with the annual celebration of the Festival Du Voyageur in Winnipeg.