Manitoba's new holiday: Louis Riel Day
Last Updated: Tuesday, September 25, 2007 | 3:02 PM CT
Manitoba's new February holiday will be be named in honour of the Métis leader Louis Riel, who led the Red River and North-West rebellions in a fight to maintain aboriginal rights, provincial officials announced Tuesday.
"It's very, very tough to make all of the people happy all of the time, but at the end of the day, this is the name that was chosen, and I think Manitobans will be happy with it," Labour Minister Nancy Allen said Tuesday.
The name was nominated in a contest for schoolchildren across the province. More than 100 schools gave proposed names. Other suggestions included Bison Break, Spirited Energy Day and Winnipeg Jets Day.
The MB4Youth advisory council, a group of 15 young leaders who advise the government on issues relating to youth, selected the winner, which had to be "relevant to Manitoba" and "reference citizenship, history, culture, the arts, sports or a significant individual."
Eleven schools suggested Louis Riel Day. Each will receive a $1,000 grant to purchase library materials.
Riel, who was born in 1844 and hanged for treason in 1885, remains a controversial figure in Canadian history. Most consider him the founder of Manitoba; he is seen by some as a hero of aboriginal peoples, but by others as a traitor who instigated civil war.
Response to public pressure
The legislation to establish the new holiday was reintroduced as the legislature resumed Tuesday.
The proposed legislation allows for the same amount of shopping on the new holiday as is allowed on Sundays and several other statutory holidays.
After initially dismissing the idea, the province agreed earlier this year to create a February statutory holiday in response to public pressure.
However, some groups, including the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, have complained they were not consulted about the idea, arguing that another holiday would cost employers millions of dollars.
Manitoba currently has seven holidays. Provincial officials say that eight is still below Canada's national average.
Residents of Alberta have celebrated Family Day on the third Monday in February since 1990, while Saskatchewan enjoyed its inaugural February statutory holiday — also named Family Day — on Feb. 19.
If the Manitoba legislation passes, as is widely expected, the first of the new holidays will be Monday, Feb. 18, 2008.
Politicians resume session
Politicians returned to the legislature Tuesday to continue the brief session that began in June, after the NDP was handed a third majority government in a provincial election.
All three parties say health care will be among their priorities in this session. The Conservatives plan to also focus on crime, while the Liberals will target the environment.
The session will last until Nov. 8, then break until Nov. 20, when the next throne speech will outline the re-elected NDP's goals.
Politicians will then sit under the dome on Broadway until Dec. 6.
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