Louis Riel Day (Manitoba)

The third Monday in February is a statutory holiday in many provinces in Canada. In Manitoba, the name of this day was chosen following a contest in 114 schools in the province. This day honours the memory of Louis Riel, considered the father of Manitoba, even though this date is not related to any significant event in his life.

It is a way of recognizing the contribution of this great Métis leader who championed the cause of the Métis people, notably by protecting their rights and promoting the culture of the Métis Nation.

“Riel stood out for his passion, his respect for difference, his acute sense of social justice and his unwavering defence of Métis and francophone rights. Riel had a vision of what the Métis nation could be and by setting the stage for Manitoba’s entry into confederation, made us more determined to keep it alive”, said the Honourable Dan Vandal in 2020.

According to Statistics Canada, there were 587,545 Métis people in Canada in 2016. They represented more than one-third of the Aboriginal people living in Canada, or about 1.7% of the total population. Ontario (120,585) and Alberta (114,370) have the largest Métis communities in the country. Manitoba (89,355) has the fourth largest population after British Columbia (89,405).

Louis Riel played a key role in drafting the List of Rights that led to the foundation of the Manitoba Act of 1870. This act brought the new province into the Canadian Confederation. Louis Riel, Métis leader of the Red River Resistance, was executed on November 16, 1885.

Louis Riel and Council, [1870], Joseph Langevin, photographer (Archives of Manitoba, Red River Disturbance 1, N5396)

To learn more about this Métis leader, visit this site.

Source photo top of page: Louis Riel, ca 1873, (Archives of Manitoba, Louis Riel 2-3, N5735)