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Louis Riel: Founder of Manitoba

The Story

The banks of the Red River in Winnipeg are a fitting place for a tribute to Louis Riel. Here, Manitobans are celebrating official federal and provincial recognition of Riel's role in the founding of Manitoba. It's a proud moment for the Métis people, too: they've gained a long-sought seat at the 1992 constitutional talks. "Métis people will be able to walk with their heads up high," says leader Yvon Dumont in this report from CBC News. 

Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: July 11, 1992
Guests: Norman Chartrand, Yvon Dumont, Gary Filmon, Ferdinand Guiboche
Host: Wendy Mesley
Reporter: Saša Petricic
Duration: 3:28

Did You know?

• In 1992 the Métis also won a Supreme Court decision recognizing them as an aboriginal nation in Canada.

• The House of Commons officially acknowledged Riel's contribution to Confederation in March 1992. The resolution, which passed in a unanimous vote, applauded Riel's efforts to secure protection for Métis and francophone rights in the creation of Manitoba.

• The unanimous vote, arranged by an all-party agreement, nevertheless heard dissent from Nova Scotia MP Patrick Nowlan. According to Maclean's magazine, Nowlan said Parliament was "rewriting Riel history" in a bid for political correctness. He reasoned that the move set a precedent that might prompt future MPs to retroactively declare Prime Minister Mackenzie King "a security risk because he did things during the war according to a medium's ball."

• In the 2001 census, the number of Canadians who reported their ethnicity as Métis was 292,305. Of these, there were about 65,000 in Alberta, 55,000 in Manitoba, 50,000 in Ontario, and 45,000 each in Saskatchewan and British Columbia.

• Yvon Dumont, speaking as the leader of the Manitoba Métis Federation in this clip, became Manitoba's lieutenant-governor in March 1993.

• In 1992 the Métis negotiated a place in the newly drafted Constitution that went to a referendum that year. If the agreement passed, all aboriginal groups -- on-reserve, non-status, Inuit and Métis -- would gain the right to negotiate individual self-government arrangements with Ottawa.

• The result of the referendum was a No vote.

• The Métis did win a long-fought battle in 2003. The Supreme Court of Canada upheld a ruling that allowed Métis people to hunt and fish out of season and without a license, a right aboriginal people have long held.

• The ruling said Métis people have that right provided they can prove a link to a historic Métis community.

• While the ruling applied to the Sault Ste. Marie region only, Métis said it paved the way for future similar challenges.

• In September 2007, Manitoba named a new provincial holiday in February after Riel. The first Louis Riel Day was scheduled for Feb. 18, 2008. "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," said provincial Labour Minister Nancy Allen after the announcement was made.



Rethinking Riel more