Revised Bell of Batoche story troubling to some Métis

A CBC documentary about the Bell of Batoche is generating some controversy in Saskatchewan.

Documentary findings will come as a 'bomb' to some Métis, bishop says

New information in a CBC documentary shows this may be a bell from Frog Lake, Alberta and not the Bell of Batoche. (Peter Mills/CBC)

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  • Fragments of the Batoche bell may be part of a shrine at St. Laurent de Grandin

A CBC documentary about the Bell of Batoche is generating some controversy in Saskatchewan.

According to Doc Zone producers, the artifact that was in the news last summer as the Bell of Batoche is actually another bell from Frog Lake, Alberta.

Now, one of the people who worked on the return of what was believed to be the Bell of Batoche is not pleased with how the latest information has been handled.

This is going to hurt a lot of people.- Bishop Albert Thévenot

Bishop Albert Thévenot, from the diocese of Prince Albert, told CBC News Thursday that he is upset that people in the Métis community were not contacted about the bell's provenance.

"They had no consideration for the people involved," Thévenot said. "It's as if they're just trying to show a fact that you are wrong. And that's not what history is all about."

The story of the bell of Batoche has been an important part of Western Canadian history since the days of Louis Riel. The church bell was taken by Canadian soldiers as a trophy of war during Riel's last battle in 1885. It was on display in a legion hall in Ontario until 1991, when it disappeared. It resurfaced last summer and was returned to Saskatchewan.  

The documentary producers, however, have uncovered evidence showing that bell was taken from Frog Lake, Alberta.

Thévenot said the new information will not be taken well in some Métis quarters.

"This is going to come out like a bomb for some of them," he said. "And this is going to raise a kind of — I don't like to say it — but a little bit of a hatred towards the government. Because they had stolen their bell, and here they're going to steal it away again? This is going to hurt a lot of people."

Batoche bell fragments nearby

When the documentary aired, Thursday night, it also suggested that fragments of the Batoche bell may be part of a shrine at St. Laurent de Grandin, the site of a Métis settlement not far from Batoche. The documentary uncovered evidence suggesting the Batoche bell was moved to a church at St. Laurent where it was in use since 1937.

That church burned down in 1990 but fragments of the bell are still with the shrine.

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