by Kinnukana, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
(ANNews) – On November 16, 2023, a flag raising ceremony was held at St. Albert Place, in St Albert, to proclaim and celebrate Métis Week, which takes place from November 12-18, 2023. Métis Week is a week-long celebration that takes place across Canada every year. It is a time to pay tribute to the Right Honourable Louis Riel (Riel) and to commemorate the contributions and sacrifices of the Métis people and their culture.
The ceremony began with an opening prayer by Archie Arcand of the St Albert Métis Local. Then, the grade six students from Sir Alexander McKenzie (SAM) School sang a beautiful song called Song For Louis Riel. The song is a way to help teach the history of Louis Riel.
Riel was born on October 22, 1844, in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He was a Canadian politician, founder of Manitoba in 1870, and a political leader of the Métis people. He led two resistance movements against the Canadian government on behalf of the Métis rights and lands, known as the Red River Resistance and the North-West Resistance. After surrendering, Riel was charged with high treason by the Canadian government and was executed by hanging on November 16, 1885, at the direction of then Prime Minister John A. Macdonald. Prime Minister Macdonald decided to charge Riel with high treason based on an unclear British law dating back to the year 1342, which allowed for the death penalty, whereas Canada’s treason law did not allow it. Riel is considered a hero by many Métis people for being brave and standing up for what he knew was right.
Luc Gauthier, emcee of the event, reminded everyone that “Métis Week is a time to celebrate our Métis Leader Louis Riel and how hard he had to fight for our rights and our resiliency to make sure we have the spirit to carry on.” Luc encouraged event participants, including the SAM school students, to join him on the floor and provided them with jigging lessons. Everyone then went outside for the official raising of the flag ceremony.
Prior to the raising of the flag, Gary Gagnon of the St Albert Métis Local welcomed everyone to the event. He said that “it was nice to see the youth dance today. As sad as an occasion it is, in memory of Louis Riel on this day, we can always celebrate life even though someone has passed on. We continue that memory of Louie Riel.”
Gagnon also explained to everyone that “there is just one Métis in this beautiful city we call St Albert. We are not divided. We need to be strong together, just like that sash. You see the threads; they are all weaved together and that is who we are. One thread can be broken but not the whole sash. You couldn’t tear it apart and that is who we are as Métis.”
St Albert Mayor, Cathy Heron, also welcomed everyone and read the declaration proclaiming November 12 to 18, 2023 as Métis Week in St Albert. Mayor Heron said, “Métis families have contributed to this community for generations and are an integral component to the social fabric of our city. From the history of the river lots, to the modern city that we have become, [the] Métis have helped make St Albert a great community that we all know and love today.” In her declaration, Mayor Heron, also stated that St Albert recognizes the rights of Métis within St Albert, specifically under Section 35 of the Constitution Act of 1982 and that the city will continue to be an active participant of reconciliation.
Marie Renaud, St Albert Member of the Legislative Assembly, also thanked everyone for attending the event. She said, “It is amazing to see how much this event has grown over the years. Just knowing that the flag will be up here year-round is fantastic. We have a lot of work to do on reconciliation at all levels of government. At the legislature, we now have three Indigenous members, MLAs, which is a great start. That is how you start to bring in real change – to be at the table.”
St Albert Métis resident Lloyd Gwin and his grandchildren, Askiya Vetter, Quinn Sinclair, and Charlie Phelps held the important role of officially raising the Métis flag in honour of Métis Week. A reception followed where participants had the opportunity to enjoy watching the Métis Child and Family Jiggers while eating traditional Bannock and other food and refreshments.
For more information on Métis Week activities, go to: Métis Week 2023 – Métis Nation of Alberta (albertametis.com) or https://www.facebook.com/ABMetis/