Louis Riel Day

November 16th, 2012 by Dan Allan

On November 16, Ontarians honour Louis Riel and the contributions he made to Métis communities across the country. Riel is a polarizing figure who, regardless of your viewpoint, has had a profound impact on Canadian history.

The Métis are an Aboriginal group in Canada with mixed First Nations and European heritage. Riel, a Métis leader and an elected Member of Parliament, played an important role in Manitoba becoming Canada’s fifth province.

However, Riel wanted to ensure that the Métis could enter Confederation while still protecting their culture from government interference. This unrest culminated in the Red River Rebellion of 1870.

Despite their resistance, the Métis were displaced as new settlers entered Manitoba and other prairie communities. Because of his involvement, Riel became a fugitive and was exiled to the United States. During this exile, Riel was elected to the House of Commons three times but was never able take his seat.

Riel returned to Canada in 1884 to join the Métis side against the government during the North-West Rebellion in Saskatchewan. The Métis surrendered to the federal forces and Riel was captured, charged, tried and ultimately executed for high treason on November 16th, 1885.

Regardless, Riel is viewed by many as a folk hero who defended the Métis in the face of an oppressive government. Several attempts have recently been made by the federal government to revoke his conviction.

Click here to watch a Heritage Minute about Riel.

In Manitoba, Louis Riel Day is celebrated in February.

We also wrote about Saskatchewan’s Tommy Douglas Day in October as part of our “Famous Canadians in Democracy” series of blogs.


Posted in Famous Canadians in Democracy, News, Special Events | 2 Comments »

Tommy Douglas Day

October 20th, 2012 by Katie Reidel

October 20, on the anniversary of his birth, the province of Saskatchewan will be celebrating the 8th annual Tommy Douglas Day.

Thomas Clement Douglas served in elected public for much of his life. From 1935-1944 he served as the MP for Weyburn. Following this, he served as the 7th Premier of Saskatchewan from 1944 to 1961, representing the Saskatchewan CCF. He then returned to federal politics, sitting as an MP from 1962-1979 in two different BC ridings, serving as the first leader of the New Democratic Party until 1971. During his time in office, he was instrumental in several innovations that Saskatchewan and Canada now rely on daily.

Under Douglas, Saskatchewan passed into law the first provincial Bill of Rights in Canada in 1947 (a year before the UN General Assembly). In Canada, it was the first law to protect against discrimination and to ensure that each person had the right to fair treatment.

Douglas was also instrumental in, and perhaps most well known for, establishing Canada’s first public hospitalization program in 1947, as well as the creation of Canada’s first Medicare program. He fought the 1960 general election primarily on the issue of universal state-run health insurance. This legislation did not end up passing until after Douglas had left office.

More recently, Tommy Douglas won the title of ‘Greatest Canadian’. In 2004, CBC Television held a public contest where people were asked to nominate and vote for who they thought was the greatest Canadian. Celebrities advocated for the top 10 finalists, before a grand reveal was made on air. Douglas placed ahead of Terry Fox (2nd) and Pierre Trudeau (3rd).

When driving through Weyburn last spring, Taylor and I stopped to remember the great man that Tommy Douglas was, and the priceless legacy he left for all Canadian people. Hopefully Canadians across the country and around the world will join with Saskatchewan in celebrating the life of Tommy Douglas on October 20, and will continue to be thankful for his many years of service.


Posted in Famous Canadians in Democracy, News, Special Events | 2 Comments »

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