It's a Riel holiday

JOYANNE PURSAGA -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 12:55 PM ET

A man often called the "Father of Manitoba" is set to become the namesake of Manitoba's newest statutory holiday.

Labour Minister Nancy Allan announced a new provincial holiday scheduled to fall on the third Monday in February will be called "Louis Riel Day." Allan said the name selected by 11 of 114 schools that entered a "name the holiday" contest reflects the culture and history of Manitoba.

The winner was chosen from the entries by the MB4Youth Advisory Council.

"It was passed unanimously in cabinet and we're very pleased," said Allan. "Louis Riel (shaped) the Manitoba Act and is a very strong figure, and represents all the criteria we used (in the contest)."

'GREAT CONTRIBUTION'

Legislation to establish the new day off was tabled yesterday afternoon and is expected to pass in the near future.

The opposition agreed that naming the day after Riel was a strong choice.

"He made a great contribution to our province," said Tory leader Hugh McFadyen.

Riel, one of the most controversial figures in Manitoba's history, is known for his leadership of a provisional government that created the Manitoba Act and his later conviction for high treason linked to the North-West Rebellion at Batoche in 1885. He was executed that year.

Ron Chartrand, vice-president of the Manitoba Metis Federation, hopes the holiday honour will call attention to the Metis leader's work for the province.

"I think it's great and it's about time that Louis Riel, as a true patriot of our province, is going to be honoured," he said.

"I remember back when I was young and in school we were taught Louis Riel was a traitor. Hopefully now he will get the proper recognition as the Father of Confederation (of Manitoba)."

Sarah Ibrahim, a Grade 6 student at Ecole Varennes, said Riel was an obvious choice.

"We thought everybody would pick it," she said. "He was a good man. He was smart and he deserves the publicity."

Students offered many possible names for the new day off, including Manisnowba Day, Good Neighbour Day, Bison Break, Spirited Energy Day, Chil-Lax Day, Family Day and Funday Monday.

Each winning school will receive a $1,000 grant for its library.

But Winnipeggers' reaction to the choice was mixed.

"It sucks. It's supposed to be a family day and it should be called that," said Susan Butson, who noted a school division, school building and several other places are already named after Riel.

"I don't think it's appropriate at all."

Others were indifferent.

"It doesn't matter what it is as long as I get the day off," said Alan Gates.


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