Manitoba election: Liberals vow to recognize Louis Riel as 1st premier if elected

The Manitoba Liberal Party plans to officially acknowledge Louis Riel as the first premier of Manitoba if elected.

Vow to name Métis leader 1st premier comes weeks after province acknowledged Riel as 'first leader'

The Manitoba Liberal Party plans to officially acknowledge Louis Riel as the first premier of Manitoba if elected. 2:12
The Manitoba Liberal Party plans to officially acknowledge Louis Riel as the first premier of Manitoba if elected.
Manitoba Liberal Party Leader Rana Bokhari says if elected, her party will formally recognize Louis Riel as the first premier of Manitoba. (CBC)

"We as a province have celebrated the courage of Louis Riel but have never taken the final steps required to truly honour the man who fought and died for Manitoba," party Leader Rana Bokhari said.

On March 1, the province hung a framed photo of the Métis leader next to those of former premiers at the Manitoba Legislature, recognizing Riel as the "the first leader of the province."

"For too many years we've marginalized this relationship with the Métis Nation in Manitoba," St. Johns candidate Noel Bernier, the party's director of indigenous caucuses, told reporters Saturday. "It's about time we embrace this history in a way that can really showcase our province."
A photo of Louis Riel (right) was unveiled at the Manitoba Legislature in March. The province has formally recognized the Metis figure as "the first leader of Manitoba." (Ron)

While some might say the Liberals' pledge is a distinction without a difference, Bernier and Bokhari argued the province needs to listen to the Métis community's wishes, move past the symbolic gestures and formally name Riel Manitoba's first premier.

"There's no better way to start than to acknowledge what we all believe already," Bernier said. "Between Louis Riel Day, between the monuments, between even the recent hanging of a photograph in the legislative assembly, we need to come out and just acknowledge that Louis Riel was our first premier and we're excited to do that."

The NDP released a statement Saturday, touting Greg Selinger's work strengthening ties with Métis groups and recognizing Riel's role as the first to lead in Manitoba.

"We firmly believe in honouring our responsibility to work towards reconciliation, mutual understanding and respect with all Manitoba's peoples, including recognizing the special role of the Métis people in our collective history," an NDP spokesperson said in a statement.

Manitobans head to the polls April 19.