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Manitoba honours Louis Riel with new portrait designation as first premier

Manitoba is honouring Louis Riel with a new portrait designation recognizing him as the first premier of the province, Premier Wab Kinew announced on Monday.

“Our government was proud to make the first legislation – we introduced a bill to recognize Louis Riel as Manitoba’s first premier,” said Kinew.

“We have also taken steps to ensure all Manitoba students learn about Riel and his provisional government including the List of Rights they drafted that would eventually become the basis of the Manitoba Act of 1870.

“Today we celebrate Riel’s legacy and the accomplishments of the Red River Métis people in Manitoba.”

The current portrait of Riel which has been in the legislative building for many years now has a new plaque. After legislation passed in 2023 declaring Riel the first premier of Manitoba, the plaque was changed to reflect Riel’s status as Manitoba’s original head of government.

In addition to the plaque unveiling, Kinew joined David Chartrand, president of the Manitoba Metis Federation, and many proud Red River Métis citizens at Riel’s gravesite at St. Boniface Cathedral, 190 de la Cathedrale Ave., for the ceremonial presentation of the Louis Riel Act.

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“This is a historic and momentous day as we reflect on the true history of Louis Riel and the Métis of the Red River,” said Chartrand.

“Our history has been one of hardship, marginalization, racism and discrimination – a continued struggle for recognition of our identity as the Red River Métis people. We have been 153 years in waiting and advocating to correct this part of our history, and today we see the true title of Louis Riel further acknowledged. The stain on Canada remains for portraying him as a traitor and a madman, instead of telling his true history as the first premier and the founder of Manitoba.

“We hope what we do here today will be a catalyst for real change, so that all know the truth and honour Premier Riel’s legacy, and the legacy of our people.”

Riel was declared a founder of Manitoba in 1992 and officially recognized as the first leader of the province in 2016. The Manitoba Métis Federation continued to push for Riel to be granted the title of first premier and Kinew bestowed that designation on Riel in 2023.

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