Louis Riel – When I Grew Up, he was ‘a ‘dangerous traitor’. Now Canada’s Prime Minister issues a statement honouring him!

This November 16th, 2018 is Louis Riel Day in Canada

A Brief Commentary by Doug Draper

Posted November 16th, 2018 on Niagara At Large

Louis Riel, from dangerous rebel to hero

Louis Riel, the 19th century Metis leader and activist for his people who is now commonly regarded as the founder of the Manitoba, was certainly not held in very high regard in the history textbooks I grew up with in 1960s Ontario public schools.

Riel, who I happen to have a lot of regard for, was characterized as a dangerous rebel and traitor to the new confederation of Canada and as someone who deserved to be tried and hanged under the eyes of then Prime Minister John A. Macdonald.

Of course, that portrait of Louis Riel was taught to me and my teenage peers by older, mostly white Anglo-Saxon adults who felt just as badly about American civil rights leaders from the 1960s like Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael and Martin Luther King, and about hippies, the Rolling Stones, almost any Black singer who recorded on Chess or Stax Records, the cannabis that the likes of former prime minister Brian Mulroney, Bay Street stock brockers and  several Conservative Party MPs are now making a business investment in, and young people protesting the War in Vietnam on college campuses.

A history booklet about Louis Riel from the late 1880s that did not convey a much different message than the one I got in school in the 1960s

And while we were being taught that Louis Riel was a bad person who deserved to die with a noose around his neck, we also were not told our taught anything, in the public schools I went to anyway, about the residential schools where aboriginal children, ripped away from their homes and families, were taken to have ‘the Indian purged from them’ – residential schools that were still in operation while I was going to high school in the 1960s, by the way.

I’m not saying I did not have some good teachers. I certainly had a few. But overall, I have to say lies, damn lies and public school education.

It makes me wonder and worry about what young people are being taught in our schools today about social media and the internet, about issues like climate change, the role and responsibilities of citizens in a democracy, and the difference between truth and fiction.

My advice to any young person who will take it – don’t simply memories the lesson or take what you are told by authority figures at the head of the class at face value.


And put aside the textbook long enough to read a lot of newspapers and books. Do your own research and come to your own conclusions.

Now here is the statement from Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, on Louis Riel Day –

November 16, 2018
Ottawa, Ontario

The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, today issued the following statement on Louis Riel Day:

“Today, we commemorate the life of Louis Riel, a dedicated Métis leader, politician, and the founder of the province of Manitoba.

“A champion for minority rights and the Métis Nation, Louis Riel played a key role in Canadian Confederation. He was a visionary who dreamed of a diverse and inclusive Canada. On Louis Riel Day, we reflect on his contributions to building the country we are all proud to call home.

“This summer, I had the pleasure of meeting with the Métis Nation leaders at the annual Crown-Métis Nation Summit. The Summit supports the Canada-Métis Nation Accord and helps advance Canada’s commitment to work with the Métis Nation and drive progress toward their vision of self-determination.

“As we continue to strengthen our relationship and build on our efforts of reconciliation, I encourage Canadians to reflect on the important contributions of the Métis people. We recognize the vital role they have played – and continue to play – in building Canada.”

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 “A politician thinks of the next election. A leader thinks of the next generation.” – Bernie Sanders


One response to “Louis Riel – When I Grew Up, he was ‘a ‘dangerous traitor’. Now Canada’s Prime Minister issues a statement honouring him!

  1. Question everything! Definitely. I would add this. Formal schooling should develop a ‘sense of wonder’ in young people. Then, even the crooks and cheats we meet everywhere become interesting and worthwhile studies. A sense of wonder can be an antidote to boredom and apathy.


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