Long-planned Métis National Heritage Centre in Winnipeg gets $5M boost
Centre will provide members of the Métis nation with an opportunity to tell their story
A first-of-its-kind Métis National Heritage Centre — in the works for nearly 15 years — is getting a multimillion-dollar lift from the federal government.
Carolyn Bennett, minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, announced more than $5 million in funding on Friday for the construction of the Winnipeg-based centre.
The facility, which will showcase the contributions of Métis people to the development of Canada, is key to advancing reconciliation, a news release about the funding announcement states.
"The first-of-its-kind in Canada, the Métis National Heritage Centre will provide members of the Métis nation with an opportunity to tell their story," the news release says.
"It will provide Canadians with an opportunity to learn about the heritage, language, culture, methods of governance, and contributions of the Métis nation before, during, and after Confederation."
There is no timeline for the start of construction, and a location has yet to be finalized. But Manitoba Metis Federation president David Chartrand lauded Friday's announcement as a major step forward.
"I am so pleased this heritage centre will be in the birthplace of the Métis nation and the heart of the Métis nation homeland," he said in a news release.
"This is our home. This is our land. As partners in Confederation and as neighbours and friends, I look forward to the day when I can welcome visitors from Manitoba, and indeed from around the world, to this centre of excellence.
"By teaching our history to other Canadians, we are able to reaffirm our place in confederation and the rights that come with it."
The Métis contribution to Canada is still not well known, Bennett said, and the new centre "will teach Canadians what, unfortunately, most of us never learned in school."
The minister added the centre will celebrate Métis accomplishments but also delve into dark chapters, like "the terrible tragedy of Louis Riel [hanged for treason in 1885 and now recognized as a founder of Manitoba], who was a member of Parliament but never allowed to take his seat."
"There are so many stories and histories."
Long time coming
Chartrand said he was first asked in the 1990s to start lobbying for the development of a Métis museum.
"It's something we've been waiting for, for a long, long time," he said on Friday. "There's none like it nowhere else in the world."
A feasibility study and business plan was completed in 2005 and it was estimated at that time that the proposed 40,000-square-foot facility would cost a minimum of $20 million to build.
The hope at that time was to start construction by 2008 and locate it in Bonnycastle Park, near the corner of Assiniboine Avenue and Main Street.
At the time, however, city officials said they had not been approached about using the land at Bonnycastle Park.
Little was heard again about the heritage centre until 2015, when the Manitoba Metis Federation again announced funding from the federal government and identified Upper Fort Garry Provincial Park — across Assiniboine from Bonnycastle Park — as the spot the centre would be built.
The centre was described at that time as a place where the history of the Métis nation and their significant role in the development of Canada would be presented through exhibitions, workshops, presentations and community gatherings.
In 2017, the federal government and RCMP agreed to return a series of artifacts connected to Métis leader Louis Riel — his crucifix, knife and a book of poetry — to the Métis people in 2018, when it believed the heritage centre would finally be opened.