Two Métis politicians took time to reflect on Louis Riel’s impact on Canadian history in Ottawa on Wednesday.
Nov. 16 marks 137 years since Riel was executed at the hands of the Canadian state.
Dan Vandal is the minister of northern affairs but he is also the Liberal MP for the riding of St. Boniface-St. Vital where Riel is buried.
“I consider him a father of Confederation, Manitoba’s first premier,” he said outside the House of Commons. “I’m honoured that Riel was born in the constituency, the riding that I represent and I am equally honoured that he rests there. His tomb is in St. Boniface cemetery. He was elected three times as a member of parliament but was never allowed to take his seat in the House of Commons.”
Edmonton NDP MP Blake Desjarlais said both Riel’s contribution to Canadian society, along with Métis people, have largely gone unrecognized but things are changing.
“I really think there’s been a significant change,” he said. “Métis people in Canada have a really unique history. One that has been almost excluded from the history books for generations. A lot of folks wouldn’t know but Métis people have been here a really long time. We have one of the oldest patriotic flags in North America and Métis people have contributed not just to the founding of Canada and the Prairie provinces but even before then. We were the folks who were ushering in a whole era of fur trade, of commerce.”
Riel’s monument in the St. Boniface Cathedral Cemetery was vandalized in October. Winnipeg police are still investigating.
“It was a horrible act,” Vandal said. “Unbelievably insensitive and I hope they find the person who did it and he receives his just punishment.”