Commemorating Louis Riel in the Year of the Métis

In many ways November 16th is the saddest day of the year for the Métis Nation. It is the day on which, in 1885, Louis Riel was hanged for treason. But by marking this day every year and remembering Riel and his fight, Métis people have, perhaps, turned a tragic injustice into inspiration and hope.

Riel Day Gen 4
Riel Day in Toronto, 2006
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Riel Day in Fort Frances, 2007
This year’s Louis Riel Day is especially poignant because it is being held during the Year of the Métis Nation, which is recognized by both the Canadian and Ontario governments and commemorates the 125th anniversary of the Northwest Resistance.

For the past 18 years the citizens of the Métis Nation of Ontario have organized events to commemorate the day Louis Riel was executed in Regina for leading the Métis during the Northwest Resistance. Each year one of these gatherings is organised on the lawn of the Provincial Legislature at Queen’s Park in Toronto. There is an irony that the gathering takes place at a monument to the soldiers from Ontario who went west in 1885 to fight against Riel and the Métis, in what was then called “the Northwest Rebellion”.

Although Riel Day is a commemoration and always includes solemn moments, it is also a celebration of Riel’s life and his efforts for Métis rights. Therefore, Riel Day also recognizes the growing acknowledgement of Métis contributions to Canada and the increasing strength of the Métis Nation. Riel was once vilified in Ontario for his leadership of the Métis but on Riel Day in communities across Ontario, non-Métis people join with the Métis Nation to recognize Riel and celebrate our history and culture.