Celebrating Louis Riel Day an important step in reconciliation

It might seem like just another Thursday to some, but Nov. 16 is an important day of remembrance and celebration for the Metis in Canada.

It marks the 132nd anniversary of Louis Riel’s execution after he was tried in a Regina court and found guilty of treason in early August 1885. Although the jury recommended the court show mercy on Riel after they delivered the verdict, Judge Hugh Richardson disagreed and instead sentenced him to death by hanging.

Karon Shmon, director of publishing at the Gabriel Dumont Institute, said the day is not only one of remembrance, but also a celebration of one of the Metis people’s biggest heroes, a man who ended up paying the ultimate price for the betterment of his people.

“We’re still here, we’re still thriving and I actually think Riel is part of the reason. He had a vision of what the Metis nation could be and the horrible set of circumstances (the failed resistance and Riel’s execution) made us more determined to keep it alive,” she said.

Everyone is welcome to attend the events, which will offer a wonderful learning opportunity to broaden people’s view of Canadian history — one of the calls to action under the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, she noted.

“I don’t think people should shy away from learning more. The truth has to come before the reconciliation, so the more people can learn about the truth and discuss how we got to where we are today collectively as Canadians and what do we do about it now,” Shmon said.

“We are not trying to rewrite history, we are trying to fill in the missing pieces.”

Events to celebrate Riel are scheduled throughout the day, including a lunch program at the office of the Central Urban Metis Federation Inc. (CUMFI) from noon to 2 p.m., an opportunity to view a display honouring Riel at the Gabriel Dumont Institute, and a joint program with the Francophone Federation of Saskatoon in the spirit of reconciliation from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Station 20 West.