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A Nod to My Canadian Readers

Monday, February 21, 2011, 11:05 EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

I would be remiss if I didn’t wish a happy Family Day to my readers in Alberta, Ontario, and Saskatchewan; happy Louis Riel Day to my Manitoba readers; and happy Islander Day to anyone from Prince Edward Island who might stumble by.

I found the following information about Family Day:

Family Day was first held in Canada in the province of Alberta in 1990. It is supposed to reflect the values of family and home that were important to the pioneers who founded Alberta, and give workers the opportunity to spend more time with their families. Family Day was introduced in Saskatchewan in 2007 and in Ontario in 2008. One of the reasons for introducing Family Day was that there was a long period when there were no holidays from New Year’s Day until Good Friday.

Like Family Day, PEI’s Islander Day appears to be a holiday for its own sake:

Throughout the Province of Prince Edward Island, the second Monday in February in each year shall be a public holiday, and shall be kept and observed as such under the name of “Islander Day”.

Louis Riel Day has a more colorful background. Mr. Riel, described on the Manitoba provincial web site as “the driving force behind Manitoba becoming Canada’s fifth province,” was evidently quite a rabble-rouser:

Born in 1844, Louis Riel was the eldest son of a prominent St. Boniface Métis family. At 14, he was sent to Montreal to train for priesthood. By 1868, he had left school and was back in St. Boniface supporting his recently widowed mother and siblings.

Riel found the Red River Métis distressed by Canada’s plans to annex Hudson’s Bay Company lands… He formed a militia, turned back surveyors, took possession of Upper Fort Garry and began the Red River Resistance.

During the winter of 1869-1870, Riel, just 25 years old, formed a provisional government and presented Canada with a Bill of Rights that, on May 12, became the Manitoba Act, 1870…

Unfortunately, while his provisional government negotiated with Canada during the winter of 1870, Riel allowed an agitator to be tried and executed for insubordination. Vilified in eastern Canada for the execution, Riel feared lynching by the approaching Wolseley expedition and fled to the U.S. in August 1870.

In following years, Riel was elected to the Canadian Parliament and denied his seat on three occasions. In 1874, he was convicted of murder and sentenced to death for the 1870 execution. Within months, Riel received amnesty on the condition that he remain in exile for five years.

In 1884, Riel was raising a family and living in Montana as an American. Asked to negotiate for Saskatchewan Métis as he had done at Red River, Riel saw opportunity to create a Métis homeland, but Canada sent soldiers instead of negotiators. Métis resistance was defeated… Found guilty of high treason and hanged in Regina, Riel’s life ended November 16, 1885.

Whatever you celebrate and whyever/however you celebrate it, enjoy the day.

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