Louis Riel Day is an annual general holiday in the Canadian province of Manitoba on the third Monday of February. It commemorates the life of Louis Riel, a politician who represented the Métis people’s interests.
Background and symbols
Manitoba’s government introduced a holiday in February in 2007. This was because there was a long period between New Year’s Day and Good Friday when there were no holidays. A competition was held among school children to name the day. The winning name was ‘Louis Riel Day’ to commemorate this Manitoba politician. The date does not have any special connection to a particular event in Louis Riel’s life. The first Louis Riel Day in Manitoba was in 2008.
Louis Riel was a leader of the Métis people of the Canadian prairies. These are an Aboriginal people with their own culture, language and heritage. The area, which was their ancestral homeland, is now in the Canadian provinces of Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia and the Northwest Territories and parts of the north-west of the United States. Louis Riel was also a founder of the Manitoba province and a Canadian politician. However, during his lifetime, he was a controversial figure and lived in exile in the United States for a number of years. He was involved in a number of uprisings and, after a controversial trial, he was executed for treason in 1885.
Louis Riel Day is observed on or around November 16 in other areas of Canada, particularly Toronto. This is the anniversary of Louis Riel’s execution in 1885. Louis Riel Day is held in Toronto to commemorate Louis Riel’s life and to celebrate the Métis people’s culture, language, heritage and ancestral homeland.