Louis Riel Day is a Canadian holiday observed on the third Monday of February every year and this year, it falls on February 20. The day is named in honor of the founder of Manitoba. It commemorates the eventful life and contributions of a Canadian politician, Louis Riel. To honor him, Canadians have named several streets, buildings, institutes, public libraries, and residences after him. Riel represented the Métis community of the Canadian Prairie Provinces and was the driving force behind the creation of Manitoba as a province of Canada. Although Louis Riel Day is celebrated with much fervor in Manitoba, it’s not a public holiday for the other provinces. As a result, federal offices remain open on this day, while local services, schools, and businesses take the day off.
History of Louis Riel Day
The purpose of Louis Riel Day is to acknowledge the heritage of the Manitoban people. In many provinces, the third Monday of February is also celebrated as Family Day. Manitoba’s Legislative Assembly approved this holiday in 2007, and it was first celebrated on February 18 that year. When asked to give this new holiday a name, students from Manitoba schools came up with suggestions reflecting the province’s sports, art, culture, history, and remarkable personalities. Louis Riel Day was the winning entry.
The Métis community, in particular, pays tribute to their hero on this occasion. Riel spent his life fighting for the rights and recognition of this group of indigenous Canadian people. He led two major rebellions against white settlers and the federal government to protect the Red River area, which was home to the Métis community.
In the late 1860s, he founded the Métis National Committee to safeguard the cultural, social, and political heritage of the Métis. The famous Red River Resistance was the work of this committee. When the Canadian government decided to take over the land of the Métis, Riel organized a militia. He demanded the creation of a new province on behalf of the Métis by issuing the Manitoba Act. By the end of the conflict, Riel had already earned a controversial reputation. Although he was put on a pedestal by the Métis people, he was nothing more than a criminal in the eyes of the government.
The Manitoba Act was passed in 1870, and the new province was recognized. However, Riel was tried for committing treason against the state and expelled from Parliament. This, however, did not stop Riel from aiding another rebellion — the North-West Rebellion of 1885. This eventually resulted in his execution by the Canadian government in November 1885.
Louis Riel Day timeline
Riel becomes a Métis spokesperson and leads a rebellion to defend the Red River Colony from white settlers and prevent the government from encroaching on their land.
The Manitoba Act gets royal approval and is passed.
At the request of John A. Macdonald, Louis Riel leaves for Minnesota to live in exile and help avoid the conflict ensuing between Ontario and Quebec.
The government of Canada convicts Louis Riel of high treason and executes him.
Louis Riel Day FAQs
Is Louis Riel Day a general holiday in Manitoba?
Yes. Louis Riel Day is one of the eight general holidays commemorated throughout the year in Manitoba.
How do other Canadian provinces celebrate Louis Riel Day?
The third Monday of February is observed as Family Day in Alberta, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Ontario, and Saskatchewan. It is also celebrated as Islander Day on Prince Edward Island and as Nova Scotia Heritage Day in Nova Scotia.
Why do we celebrate Louis Riel Day?
The day is a celebration of Louis Riel’s contribution to Canada as we know it today. It is a commemoration of his commitment to the Métis people.
How to Observe Louis Riel Day
Learn about the Métis culture
Pay tribute to the Métis hero by getting to know the people he gave his life to protect. Pro tip: Visit the Virtual Museum of Métis History and Culture and thank us later.
Head to Manitoba
If you’re not a resident of Manitoba, there is no better time to visit the province created by the Métis hero. Explore historic sites in honor of this special day.
Think about how you can help others
Louis Riel dedicated his life to helping others. While you might not need to do the same, you can always do something to make a difference. Why not do some volunteer work or get involved in a community project?
5 Important Facts About Louis Riel
He is considered the Father of Manitoba
Louis Riel is remembered as the “Father of Manitoba” because he led the Métis National Committee, which was consolidated into a provisional government that led to the formation of Manitoba.
He is regarded as a public hero
“The Greatest Canadian” conducted by C.B.C. ranks Riel as the 11th ‘Greatest Canadian’ based on public votes.
He was elected to parliament three times
Each time, he was expelled due to his delay in acceptance.
He suffered from mental health issues
Following his exile, he suffered from nervous breakdowns and violent outbursts.
He has a controversial reputation
Although the Métis considered him their champion, he was a villain to the white settlers and was regarded as a treasonous troublemaker.
Why Louis Riel Day is Important
It honors the aboriginals of Canada
Louis Riel Day celebrates the Métis as an indigenous community of Canada. It upholds their heritage and shines a spotlight on their struggle for freedom.
It provides a much-needed break
The date of this holiday is also Family Day in Canada. It gives Canadians a chance to unwind and take a break from their busy schedules.
It inspires us to remember what Riel stood for
The Métis people hold Riel’s ideals of justice, equality, and collective decision-making close to their hearts to this day. It’s high time we follow his lead and break down barriers to live in harmony with those around us.
Louis Riel Day dates