Federal government agrees to return Métis artifacts
Items belonging to Louis Riel will be transferred from RCMP Heritage Centre to Métis National Council
The federal government has agreed to return Louis Riel's crucifix and other artifacts to the Métis National Council.
"It was an incredible surprise," said Jesse Donovan, a Métis law student at the University of Saskatchewan who fought for repatriation of the items.
"It's a step toward reconciliation."
The artifacts, which also include Riel's poetry, knife and Métis clothing, are currently on display in the RCMP Heritage Centre in Regina.
Donovan, who has worked for Métis groups across Canada, had been fighting for their release. He and others argued they belonged to the Métis, not to those who imprisoned, tried and executed their leader, Riel.
According to Donovan, officials offered to loan the items to a new Métis museum opening soon in Winnipeg. Donovan called that "totally unacceptable."
Donovan was preparing to take the federal government to court.
He recently met with a federal Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada senior staff member. Donovan was informed the government was no longer fighting to control the items.
Ownership will be transferred this summer during a ceremony in Winnipeg to the Métis National Council, then housed in the museum there, Donovan said.
"It's a good gesture," he said.
Donovan said their fight is not over. The next step is securing a land base for the Métis Nation promised by the federal government more than a century ago.
"Our advocacy will continue," he said.