Recent Supreme Court ruling vindicates Métis leader

Published by: Niagara This Week – Welland
Original article:

By Steve Henschel

Welland Riel Day
MNO Niagara Region Métis Council during the Riel Day flag raising at Welland City Hall.

WELLAND — As the Métis flag was raised in front of city hall there was a special reason to remember this year.

As they did over the past four years, representatives from the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) Niagara Region Métis Council met with Mayor Barry Sharpe and city representatives to raise the flag in honour of Louis Riel Day. The small crowd gathered last Friday, one day ahead of the actual Nov. 16 date of Riel’s execution as the leader of the Métis.

“The fight he began for the Métis people, we are celebrating that,” said MNO Niagara Region Métis Council President Derrick Pont.

“He stood up,” said Pont, explaining the Métis leader and his provisional government were influential in the establishment of Manitoba as a province, participating in negotiations with the Canadian government in 1870. Those negotiations were supposed to yield dedicated lands for the Métis.

“The government at the time started sending surveyors out and giving away that land,” said Pont. “He (Riel) stood up.”

Riel would lead the Métis in open rebellion and eventually be executed for his involvement.

“He ended up losing his life to that cause,” said Pont.

Now, 128 years later, vindication has finally come.

Pont explained this year the Supreme Court finally made a ruling on the Manitoba Métis Federation v. Canada case. In a 6-2 vote the court found that “the Federal Crown failed to implement the land grant provision set out in s. 31 of the Manitoba Act, 1870 in accordance with the honour of the Crown.”

Pont explains the ruling makes this year’s Riel Day particularly special as it shows the promise he fought for was indeed ignored and abused by the Canadian government of the day.

“What he was fighting for has been finally justified by the courts,” said Pont.

“The Métis people are not to be forgotten anymore.”