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Louis Riel Day: Honouring a legacy and continuing the fight for Métis rights

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Monday, November 16 is Louis Riel day, an opportunity for OPSEU/SEFPO members to honour the legacy of a man who died fighting for Métis rights.

On this day in 1885, Louis Riel was executed for leading the Northwest Resistance in defence of Métis rights.  Ceremonies are held each year to honour his memory and legacy.

OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas is encouraging all OPSEU/SEFPO members to use this day as a time of reflection on the legacy of Louis Riel.

“Louis Riel fought valiantly for the rights of the Métis Nation and remains an inspiration for all who fight to decolonize Canada today,’’ says Thomas.

Louis Riel established the Provisional Government of the Red River Settlement and negotiated with the Government of Canada to establish Manitoba as a province in 1870. After Thomas Scott, a settler and Orangeman, tried to murder Riel, he was marched out of Fort Garry’s east gate on March 4, 1870 and executed on the wall by the provisional government of the Red River Settlement. Scott’s execution led to Riel’s exile in 1875, and later to Riel’s own execution for treason on November 16, 1885.

While in exile to Michigan and Quebec, Métis communities protected Riel until he returned to Canada and was captured.  As a result of the execution of Louis Riel, Métis people across Canada were labeled as traitors and for generations many felt the need to hide their Métis culture and heritage. Today, his life and death are recognized with pride by Métis people because he died fighting for their rights.

Theresa O’Connor, Indigenous Circle rep (Region 2) and citizen of the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) says the spirit of Riel lives on.

“The Métis fight for its rights did not end 134 years ago and is still alive in the hearts of Métis people who continue to seek full recognition and rights as Indigenous people on Turtle Island.”

O’Connor and the OPSEU/SEFPO Indigenous Circle partnered with the Métis Nation of Ontario to host the OPSEU/SEFPO Métis Conference scheduled at Port Elgin on June 12-14, 2020.  It was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Conference “The Métis: The People of the Sash” is being re-scheduled in 2021.

November 16 is recognized in many communities with commemorative ceremonies that include song, music, prayer, and the raising of the Métis flag.  A virtual event is being organized by the Law Society of Ontario on November 16 at 5:30 pm.  All OPSEU/SEFPO members are encouraged to attend one of the many commemorative Ceremonies across the homelands to honour Louis Riel.