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 |

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