British Columbia Observes Louis Riel Day to Commemorate the Sacrifices Made for Métis Rights

Photo Credit: Métis Artist Brian Danger
Photo Credit: Métis Artist Brian Danger

Surrey, BC (November 12, 2021) – On Tuesday, November 16th, Métis Nation British Columbia (MNBC) and Canada recognize Louis Riel Day. Although most of us have heard of him, not everyone remembers why. He has been described as charismatic, a leader, a rebel, and even a traitor. On November 16, 1885, Louis Riel was hung for treason after being the leader of the Red River Rebellion. The result of Louis Riel’s execution was the mass labelling of Métis people across Canada as traitors, and for generations, many felt the need to hide their Métis culture and identity.

This Louis Riel Day you will be able to see the lights of BC Place and Science World shining blue in representation of the Métis flag for Louis Riel Day. In addition, the Burrard Street Bridge and Vancouver City Hall will also be lighting up blue commemorating the accomplishments of Louis Riel. Finally, Métis citizens will be granted access free of charge to the Fort Langley National Historic Site on Louis Riel Day.

The willingness of these prominent Lower Mainland establishments to recognize Louis Riel Day is a testament to the work MNBC has done to increase recognition of Métis people in British Columbia. The BC legislature is also paying their respects on November 16 by way of a proclamation reading in the Hall of Honour, accompanied by an MNBC delegation.

Who is Louis Riel, and how did he get his own day of recognition? Louis Riel was a politician and a leader of the Métis people. He led two resistance movements against the Government of Canada and its first prime minister, John A. Macdonald. Riel defended Métis rights and identity as the west came progressively under the Canadian sphere of influence. Riel was also a defender of religious freedom, French language rights, and gender equality. He died a staunch advocate for the Métis, and for minority rights in general.

Métis have been documented in British Columbia as early as 1793, and now represent one third of all Indigenous people in British Columbia. Although we have made strides in recent years as it pertains to the acknowledgement of inherent rights of Métis people, a lot more work is still in order. As part of MNBC’s initiative to renew its relationship with the Province of British Columbia, MNBC is working with government officials to broaden the visibility of Métis people. This is also a key component of MNBC’s Strategic Plan, to increase the cultural visibility of the Métis in BC.

“Louis Riel was accused of high treason for standing up for Métis rights,” says Patrick Harriott, Minister of Culture, Heritage, and Language. “136 years ago in Regina, Saskatchewan, he was executed for his resistance to the Canadian Government’s intrusion on Métis Lands. November 16, 1885, is a significant day for Métis peoples as it is the national public commemoration of Riel’s life and the struggles he led.”

MNBC invites all British Columbians to reflect on the sacrifices made by our Métis ancestors, to remember Louis Riel as the founder of Manitoba, and as the leader of the Red River Resistance. Although Louis Riel Day commemorates one of the great tragedies of Canadian history, it is also a day to celebrate Métis culture.

“We are proud to show our support of Louis Riel Day by displaying blue and white dome lights on the 16th. We see the struggles this group has faced and realize the importance of raising the profile and visibility of Métis people on this important day,” says Tracy Redies, President and CEO of Science World. “Science World is an iconic destination in Vancouver’s cityscape and we hope this display will facilitate important discussions and reflection.”

If you would like to learn more about Louis Riel and the history of Louis Riel Day you can follow the link below.