Category Archives: History

Don’t Speak German

“My father told us never to speak German when we were in town and to tell people we were from Holland.”

My Mom with her family around 1940

I was interviewing my mother for a story I wrote about her life. I was surprised when she said during World War II her Dad warned them not to talk German when they went into the nearby town of Drake, Saskatchewan, even though they routinely spoke German to their grandmother at home. If anyone asked them where their family was from they were to answer Holland.

Mom’s Mennonite grandparents had not come from Holland. They had immigrated to Kansas from Russia and Poland respectively in 1875 and then in the early 1900s they immigrated once again this time to Saskatchewan where the government was offering new settlers free 160 acre homesteads.

Through both migrations they maintained their mother tongue of German. But during World War II that became a liability since Canada was at war with Germany.

The Kansas School in Drake Saskatchewan

Mom told me that most of the Mennonite children in the Drake area went to the Kansas School, named after the state of Kansas where the Mennonite families had lived before immigrating to Canada. According to Mom children from a neighbouring school vandalized the Kansas School during the war because there was real antagonism towards the German speaking Mennonites.

Last week I was looking up something about my Mennonite family from Drake Saskatchewan and found an old newspaper article in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix that corroborated Mom’s feeling there had been ill will towards the German speaking Mennonites in Drake.

The story said that a group of men from Drake called the Canadian Corps had paid a surprise visit to the Kansas School which claimed to be holding Bible classes after school hours. The classes were being taught by a young man from Rosthern Saskatchewan. When the Canadian Corp entered the school they found many of the books being used for the Bible class were in German and there was German writing on the blackboard. The children were sent home and the teacher escorted to the train station where the local men bought him a ticket to go back to Rosthern. They sang O Canada as the Bible teacher’s train pulled out.

Mom was definitely right when she said her family had been treated suspiciously during the war. I wonder if this happened in other small Canadian communities with German speaking Mennonite populations.

Other posts………

Blueprints of My Grandparent’s House

My Grandmother’s Shoes

My Aunt’s Autograph Book

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Filed under Family, History

He Looks Kind

When I take my granddaughter for walks in her stroller we often make our way through Vimy Ridge Park near her home. There is a statue of a young man there that always attracts my attention. He is crouched down, his hand stretched out and he looks so concerned and kind.

Portrait of Andrew Mynarski by Paul Goronson

I found out the man is Andrew Mynarski the son of Polish immigrants to Canada. He grew up in Winnipeg and attended elementary school and high school here. Andrew joined the Canadian Airforce when he was 25. He had been working as a leather cutter since age 16 when his father died and he needed to help support his family- his mother and five siblings. He is described as a quiet man with a good sense of humour who enjoyed woodworking. He liked to design and build furniture.

Artist Charlie Johnston created the sculpture of Andrew Mynarski

On June 12 his airforce crew was setting out on their 13th mission over France when Andrew found a four leaf clover in the grass by their plane. He insisted on giving it to his good buddy Pat Brophy who was a rear gunner on his crew.

On the mission their plane was hit and the pilot ordered everyone to bail out. Andrew was just about to jump with his parachute when he noticed that his friend Pat was trapped in the back of the plane. Instantly he turned away from the plane door and crawled on his hands and knees through blazing hydraulic oil to help Pat. By the time he reached his friend his parachute and uniform were on fire.

Andrew grabbed an axe and tried to smash Pat free but it was hopeless. Pat kept telling him he should just jump and get out. Finally Andrew did. French villagers found Andrew but he was so badly burned from trying to save his friend Pat he died a few hours later.

Pat however survived. The explosion caused when the plane hit the ground blew Pat safely away from the wreckage and he was rescued. Later he told the story of how his friend Andrew had tried to save him and Andrew was awarded the Victoria Cross for his courage and kindness.

Andrew’s statue makes me think about what a horrible thing war is. That a caring brave young person like Andrew had to die is such a tragic loss. I think about the contributions a man of Andrew’s character could have made to his family and community had he lived. It makes me so sad.

When I push my granddaughter’s stroller by Andrew’s statue I always say a little prayer that she will never experience the tragedy and sorrow of a war.

Other posts……….

James Bond is From Winnipeg

Canada’s Women Soldiers

Wars Dread of Mothers


Filed under Art, Canada, History, Winnipeg

My Aunt and Winnipeg’s Polio Hospital

My aunt with my parents at her nursing school graduation from the Misercordia Hospital in 1953

In a recent e-mail my Aunt Mary recalled the time in the early 1950s when she was training to be a nurse at the Misercordia Hospital in Winnipeg. A call for volunteer nurses went out from the King George Community Hospital where most of the city’s polio patients were in care. My aunt said the patients in iron lungs needed to be under vigilant survelience due to the need for frequent tracheostomy suctioning. The director of the nursing school at the Misercordia encouraged her students to volunteer at King George during the hours they weren’t on call at the Misercorida.

The Old King George Hospital

My aunt volunteered and was assigned to two young men, both from the area of southern Manitoba where she had been born and raised. The men were from a Mennonite background, as was my aunt, and so sometimes she spoke their common cultural language Low German with them, which she recalls often helped to lighten the mood of their serious situation.

My aunt says that Ted Braun, one of the men she cared for was engaged to be married, and his worried finance was a frequent visitor. She remembers how deeply appreciative the two men were of her care for them. My aunt’s memories of her time at the King George Hospital were triggered by a recent article in the Canadian Mennonite magazine written by Will Braun who was a nephew of Ted’s.

The King George Hospital site is now home to the Riverview Health Centre

I was curious about the King George Hospital where my aunt had volunteered but learned it had been torn down and was now the site of the Riverview Health Centre. My husband Dave and I decided to visit the site on our bicycles and discovered that the front archway of the old King George Hospital has been preserved on the site.

There was a fence around the archway so we weren’t able to get too close .

Dave managed to get shots of one of the plaques with his zoom lens and it told the story of the King George Hospital built in 1914. It was considered one of the best and most modern hospitals in the world for treating patients with communicable diseases like the Spanish flu and polio.

The old King George Hospital was torn down in 1999 to make room for a new addition to the Riverview Health Complex. I am glad they kept the archway as a reminder of the important role the former hospital played in the fight against polio. For many Manitobans, their families and the medical staff that cared for them the King George Hospital was the site of life-changing events. It will still have a special place in their hearts and minds as it does for my Aunt Mary.

Other posts………

My Polio Vaccines

The Pandemic Story Behind a 105 Year Old Photo


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Filed under Health, History, Winnipeg

My Mennonite Great Grandmother Was Born in A Hebrew Colony

One of my pandemic projects has been working on a genealogy that traces my family and my husband’s family back for five generations. As I do my research I am discovering all kinds of interesting things.

My great grandmother Margaretha Schellenberg Sawatzky (1873-1943) and her husband Franz Sawatsky (1869-1936)

One thing I’ve learned is that my great grandmother Margaretha Schellenberg Sawatsky was born in a village in Ukraine called Kamenka. It is referenced as being a Judenplan village. I was curious what that was.

According to the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Judenplan was a name the Mennonites gave to a project the Russian government initiated in Ukraine. Mennonite farmers were sent to Jewish settlements to provide training in agriculture. Six Mennonite villages were established for this purpose and one was Kamenka.

Margaretha’s parents, my great-great-grandparents Johann Schellenberg (1836-1914) and Helena Andreas (1835-1904)- photo source Mary Fransen

I found a map of Kamenka online and could clearly see the property that once belonged to my great-great-grandparents Johann and Helena Andreas Schellenberg. It appears the Mennonites lived at one end of the village and the Jewish families at the other end. The Mennonites had a school (Schule) and a cemetery(Friedhof) and a wood lot (wald) but there appears to be no school or cemetery or wood lot on the Jewish side of the village. The Mennonite homesteads all look much bigger than the homes of the Jewish families.

Source of MapChortitzu website

According to the encyclopedia article, the Jewish farmers were inexperienced in agriculture and the master farmers from the Mennonite colonies were tasked with teaching them how to cultivate their land, plant trees and properly pasture their cattle. I found a couple of articles online that made it seem like the Mennonite master farmers were well-received and benevolent. I find it hard to believe that there weren’t some problems with this plan. Weren’t the Jewish farmers resentful of being told their agriculture skills were inadequate? Would the Mennonite farmers not have appeared patronizing? I wonder if the program was successful in the long run?

I found a reference to the autobiography of Joseph Epp who apparently lived in what is called the “Hebrew Colonies” from 1860-1880 as a model farmer and advisor. He was in charge of Jewish-Mennonite relations.

The Epp autobiography is still in print and in his review of it Tim Fleming says of the Judenplan  “Epp lived in the Judenplan where the Mennonites were to live as examples and model colonists to their Jewish neighbors. The Jewish settlers resented this greatly and relationships were often very difficult with fault on both sides.”

I find it interesting that my Mennonite great grandmother was born in what has been referred to as a Hebrew Colony. I wish I knew more of her family’s story there.

I have already written a story about my great grandmother Margaretha’s Sawatsky’s death which was unusual but it seems her birth and early childhood home were unique as well.

Other posts………

Marc Chagall and The Fiddler on the Roof

Hyphenated Lives

De Ja Vu At The United Nations

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Filed under Family, History, Ukraine

German POWs in Manitoba

Did you know during World War II there were 27 prisoners of war camps in Canada?  One such camp was in my home province of Manitoba.  Reading the 2013 Stanford University thesis of Adrian Meyers helped me learn all about it. Meyers carried out an archaeological dig at the former site of the camp on Whitewater Lake. Meyers also interviewed surviving prisoners and waded through a thousand related government documents. His thesis is full of interesting information.

German Prisoner of War Camp- photo from Parks Canada

The 450 German prisoners, most between the ages of 16 and 22, viewed their time at the Manitoba camp as an idyllic interlude in their wartime experience. Many were captured after a battle in North Africa. They worked hard cutting trees for lumber and firewood but were paid 50 cents a day for their labours and allowed to use the money to order things from the Eaton’s catalogue.   Photos of the prisoners show them neatly groomed and dressed smartly.

german pows riding mountain national park

Some of the prisoners at the camp- photo from Parks Canada

The Canadian government tried to re-educate the prisoners teaching them courses in Canadian history and democratic government and carefully selecting the books they read and films they watched. The POWs were under surveillance and were labelled on the basis of a colour-coded system that evaluated their allegiance to Nazism.

POW In canoe- photo from Meyers thesis

The prisoners had an active social life, playing soccer, carving dugout canoes they paddled to an island for picnics, skating on the frozen lake and being allowed to venture into neighbouring communities to attend dances.

bear with german prisoners of war manitoba

Photo from the Riding Mountain National Park collection

Some took in stray dogs as pets, while one man even adopted a juvenile black bear he named Moses.


Photo from the Winnipeg Free Press

They distilled alcohol for personal use and put on stage shows where the men sang, played instruments and some dressed up in women’s clothes. Myers’ thesis includes examples of paintings done by the prisoners and they were provided with a ping- pong table, playing cards, craft supplies and a piano.

Painting of the camp by one of the POWs- photo from the Meyers thesis

Ironically not many years before the POW camp was built in Riding Mountain National Park, the Canadian government had evicted the Ojibwa people who had long inhabited the area.

Photo of Suyoko Tsukamoto by Bill Redekop for the Winnipeg Free Press 

Suyoko Tsukamoto one of the Brandon University anthropology students who helped Meyers with the archaeological dig noted another irony. She could not help but compare the relatively luxurious lifestyle in the German POW camp to the much more trying conditions endured by her father, a full-fledged Canadian citizen who was sent to one of the government detention facilities for people of Japanese descent during the war.

Painting of the camp by a POW – photo from the Meyers thesis

 The Canadian government’s rationale was that they hoped by treating the German prisoners kindly the Germans would reciprocate with similar treatment of captured Canadian soldiers.

 More than 33,000 German soldiers were in prison camps across Canada during the war. The fact nearly 20% of them asked to remain here after the war is perhaps at least partially a testament to the humane way they were treated. All their requests were denied.

To explore Adrian Meyers’ fascinating research for yourself read his thesis entitled The Archaeology of Reform at a German Prisoner of War Camp in a Canadian National Park during the Second World War (1943–1945)

Thanks to my friend and fellow writer Larry Verstraete whose novel Missing in Paradise piqued my interest in this camp and inspired me to learn more about it. 

Other posts about World War II……..

Sleeping With Torpedos

Remembering Hiroshima

Meeting a Holocaust Survivor in Hong Kong


Filed under Books, Canada, Germany, History

A Notorious Winnipeg Robber

Many years ago I took an evening course about Winnipeg history with Roland Penner a former Attorney General of Manitoba.  Mr Penner had been involved in a legal case associated with a notorious Winnipeg robbery and he told us all about it.

Kenneth Leishman

On March 3, 1966,  a man named Ken Leishman masterminded the theft of nearly $400,000 in gold bars from the Winnipeg International Airport.  The gold was en route to the mint in Ottawa. Ken posing as an Air Canada driver intercepted the gold and drove away with it.

Harry Backlin, a lawyer was part of the scheme. He was on a planned holiday in California so it would look like he wasn’t involved in the robbery. On his return from the United States Backlin was going to take the gold to Hong Kong and sell it. Ken hid the gold in a snowbank in Harry’s backyard.  

Harry’s plans to go to Hong Kong were thwarted when there was a problem with his passport so Ken decided to go to Hong Kong to sell the gold himself. He sawed off a piece of gold to take to Hong Kong as a sample for potential buyers.

However, Ken needed a smallpox vaccination to go to Hong Kong. Harry arranged one with a friend who was a doctor. There was supposed to be a seven-day waiting period after vaccination before travel, but Ken convinced the doctor to lie and put the wrong date on the vaccination form so he could leave Canada right away.

The doctor feeling guilty confessed what he’d done to a police officer. The officer recognized Ken’s name because of his previous criminal activity.  The RCMP arrested Ken in the Vancouver airport when he arrived there on his way to Hong Kong. He managed to get rid of his sawed-off piece of gold before he was arrested. It has never been found. 

Ken is arrested

While in prison in Vancouver after his arrest Ken made the mistake of explaining the heist in detail to the man sharing his cell. He was an RCMP agent incarcerated with Ken for the purpose of extracting incriminating information. After Ken’s Vancouver jailhouse confession, the gold was dug up from Harry’s backyard and Ken was sent to jail in Headingly, Manitoba till his trial. 

Ken managed to escape from Headingly, was recaptured in Indiana and sent to the Vaughn Street Detention Centre and he escaped from there too. Finally, he was tried, convicted and sent to prison for twelve years. He managed to be released after just eight years for good behaviour.

Ken and his wife Elva

Following his prison release, Ken and his wife Elva and their seven children moved to Red Lake where they opened a store and Ken became a pillar of the community, even serving as president of the Red Lake Chamber of Commerce.

Ken, a former pilot began flying mercy flights taking people from northern communities to hospitals. In 1979 while flying one of these mercy flights his plane went missing. It took almost five months of searching but the remains of the aircraft were eventually found. 

 After learning about Kenneth Leishman from Mr Penner’s course I read a book about him, called The Flying Bandit by Heather Robertson. She writes about Ken’s difficult childhood. His parents were divorced, he was in foster homes and he lived with some strict and unaffectionate grandparents.

I truly admired his wife Elva who stuck with him through everything and raised their seven children. I also learned about the crimes Ken had committed before the gold heist– two bank robberies and a break and enter at a furniture store.

Something interesting I discovered was that when Ken escaped from Headingly Jail in September of 1966 he went to Steinbach, where my family was living at the time, and stole a plane. Ken and three other Headingly escapees flew the plane to Gary Indiana before they were arrested. 

Heather Robertson does a good job of helping us get to know Ken as a person. He truly believed he could get away with his crimes. He was a nice man –polite, friendly, dressed neatly and fashionably, was faithful to his wife, loved his children, wrote poetry but………. secretly revelled in the fame his crimes brought him. 

If you’d like to know more about this notorious Winnipeg robber I’d recommend a great little movie called Ken Leishman- The Flying Bandit. 

Other posts………..

Louis Riel

The House on Beaverbrook Street

Remembering the Holocaust in Winnipeg



Filed under Books, History, Winnipeg

Finding Nellie’s House

My husband Dave and I were taking our four-month-old granddaughter for a walk in her stroller on Friday and found ourselves on Winnipeg’s Chestnut Street.

“Hey! Look at that!” Dave pointed to a small sign on the yard of a well- kept attractive yellow house we passed.

“That’s Nellie McClung’s house he said. ” And sure enough it was. The sign made it clear.

Nellie, who was instrumental in getting Canadian women the right to vote, lived in the house on Chestnut Street with her family from 1911 to 1914. Besides being a suffragette Nellie was also an accomplished author with fifteen books to her credit. Her first book was a best-seller earning her more than $25,000, a windfall in 1908 the year it was published. Nellie became a sought after public speaker. When her family moved into the house at 97 Chestnut she was also the mother of five children ranging in age from a newborn to a teenager.

Nellie’s husband Robert was a pharmacist and it was his job that brought them to Winnipeg from Manitou Manitoba in 1911. They left Winnipeg and their house on Chestnut Street in 1914 because Robert got a job in Edmonton. Two years later in 1916 Manitoba women became the first in Canada to win the right to vote in large part thanks to Nellie’s lobbying, speaking and persuasion.

Just before Nellie left Manitoba she and her friends put on a satirical play called The Women’s Parliament at what is now the Burton Cummings Theatre. Nellie played the role of then-premier Rodham Roblin. The play was a huge success and won lots of support for the suffrage movement. It played a key role in getting women the vote.

Nellie is featured in a sculpture on the grounds of the Manitoba Legislature where she is depicted as a member of the Famous Five.

This was a group of five women who went all the way to the British Supreme Court in 1927 to fight for the right of Canadian women to be recognized as persons under the law and not merely their husband or father’s property.

I was delighted to find Nellie’s house and a little piece of Canadian history on my walk on Friday. I thought it an especially serendipitous find since Women’s History Month begins this week.

I am curious about who lives at 97 Chestnut now. I hope they don’t mind when curious passersby stop to have their photo taken in front of the former home of a feminist pioneer who championed the rights of women with such intelligence, talent, wit and courage. I will be sure to take my granddaughter back to see the house when she is a little older and I can tell her Nellie’s story.

Other posts……..

The Famous Five

Are You This Determined to Vote?

The Woman Who Loves Giraffes

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Filed under History, Winnipeg

Getting To Know My Great Grandfather

A second cousin of mine recently sent me this photo of my great grandfather Peter H. Jantz who was born in 1850. Doesn’t he look like a dashing young man? Notice his suitcase and coat on the floor behind him? I see the pocket watch tucked into his vest.

I think this photo was taken in Illinois shortly after Peter arrived in America from Poland. He had sailed on the S.S. Westphalia on May 6. 1874 when he was 24 years old. He landed in New York and then made his way to Illinois. He lived in Illinois for three years before moving to Kansas.

Peter was the youngest of five children. He was born in the village of Czosnow. His mother Eva Nickel had died in 1869 before Peter left Poland and notes about his family on the Grandma Online website suggest two of his three older sisters may have preceded their mother in death.

Peter’s oldest sister Maria came to America with her husband Heinrich Frantz in 1876 two years after her younger brother had immigrated. She and her husband and family of eight children lived in Kansas as well for time before moving to Oregon in 1893. I think Peter’s father and older brother Gerhardt stayed in Poland since there is no record of their deaths in America. So my great grandfather was a bit of a bold adventurer leaving his whole family behind in 1874 and sailing to America on his own.

On March 11 in 1879, when he was 29, Peter married my great grandmother Maria Gerbrandt, whose family was from the town of Hillsboro in Marion County. Her family had immigrated to Kansas from Swiniary Prussia in 1875 on the S.S. Paris. Swiniary is now part of Poland. In the photo above you can see Peter with his wife Maria and their eight children- Anna (Annie), Marie, Edward, Johan, Matilda (Tilly), Heinrich(Henry), Valentine and Ben. Shortly after his marriage Peter bought 80 acres of land from his father-in-law for $800 and he and Maria established their own family farm.

My grandmother Annie is the youngest and she was born in 1892 so I assume this photo was taken around 1893 when Peter was in his forties and had been married for around fourteen years. He has aged considerably since his coming to America photo was taken. Besides the eight children in the photo, Maria and Peter had a ninth, a boy named after his dad. Peter was their second child and he only lived for a year.

I believe this photo was taken around 1904 since that is the year when Peter’s oldest son Ben got married and his wife is not included in this family photo. Peter is now in his mid-fifties and in 1906 he decides to immigrate with his family and settle in Drake, Saskatchewan. His five sons were all interested in farming and there was more land to be had in Saskatchewan than in Kansas. In 1904 Peter made an exploratory trip to Saskatchewan with some other men and a decision was made to move.

Just as Peter made a bold immigration move at age 24, at age 56 he makes another one and in 1906 he leaves America for Canada. The family started a homestead two miles west of Drake Saskatchewan and eventually four of Peter and Maria’s sons as well as their daughter Annie and her husband had homesteads nearby. Peter died of respiratory problems just four years after immigrating in 1910. He was 60 years old. Sadly his daughter Tilly died one year later and his son Johan three years later both of tuberculosis.

This is on the back of Peter’s coming to America photo so we know he had his picture taken in Lebanon, Illinois at the McKendree Art Gallery by a photographer named J. Lupton. I looked him up and indeed there is a John Lupton who lived from 1833-1897 and who died in Lebanon Illinois. He was an art professor and professional photographer. My great grandfather lived in Summerfield Illinois which is only 3.5 miles from Lebanon where the photo was taken. From the German writing on the back, it looks like my great grandfather sent this photo to someone, perhaps his sister Maria in Poland who followed him to America?

The McKendree Art Gallery in Lebanon, Illinois where Great Grandpa Peter had his photo taken, is still in existence today. It is part of McKendree University which opened its doors to students in 1828. If we can ever travel again someday, I’d like to go and visit the gallery.

A big thank you to Elisabeth Reimer, my second cousin, from Saskatoon who supplied me with the wonderful photo of our Great Grandpa Peter.

Other posts…………

When My Grandmother Was Twelve Years Old

Family Blueprints

Birthday Books- A Hundred Years Old

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Filed under Family, History

Human Rights and February Holidays

In February we recognize two important holidays.  Both remind us we are making progress towards respecting diversity, but each should also remind us we need to continue to be vigilant about protecting human rights. 

Lion dancer I photographed during Chinese New Year celebrations in Hong Kong

We are in the midst of the Chinese New Year celebrations which run from February 12 -26th.  Canada is home to more than one and half million people of Chinese descent. I learned to thoroughly enjoy Chinese New Year celebrations during the six years I lived in Hong Kong. Some of my colleagues at the international school where I taught were Chinese Canadians.  I was interested to learn that their families had been in Canada longer than mine.  

Sculpture illustrating the important contribution Chinese workers made to the construction of Canada’s railroad at the Winnipeg Millennium Library

My Mennonite ancestors immigrated in the 1920s but in the early 1880s 17,000 Chinese workers came to Canada to help build the railroad.  Many stayed here and prospered despite the virulent racism they faced. Their families continue to make valuable contributions to our country in politics, culture, business, science, education, technology and sport. 

Sadly, according to the Toronto Globe and Mail, in the last year more than 600 incidents of hate related crimes have been reported to Chinese Canadian organizations. Although some of these incidents are related to historical anti-Asian racism many are the result of the racialization of COVID-19. Vancouver police have reported a real spike in cases. They investigated seven racist incidents in 2019 and sixty-six in 2020. 

Dr. Theresa Tam- Canada’s Chief Medical Officer

Although it is easy to point fingers at the United States where their former president’s continual reference to COVID-19 as the Chinese virus has caused a massive increase in anti-Asian hate incidents, we have a similar problem in Canada. One need look no further for an example of such anti- Chinese sentiment than the comments of former Conservative Party member Derek Sloan. He accused Dr. Theresa Tam our country’s chief medical officer who is of Chinese descent, of being more loyal to China than to Canada. This kind of dishonest racist rhetoric has no place in a respectful society.  

I photographed Winnipeg’s Metis mayor Brian Bowman at the opening ceremonies for Folklorama in 2019

On Monday we celebrated Louis Riel day. Louis Riel was a staunch defender of the rights of Manitoba’s Metis people. The mayor of our capital city Brian Bowman is Metis as was a former provincial premier John Norquay. Think of hockey player Theoren Fluery, writer Katherena Vermette, artist Joe Fafard, actress Tantoo Cardinal and members of Parliament Dan Vandal and Shelley Glover and you will get some idea of just how many important contributions the nearly 90,000 Metis Manitobans have made to our province.  

Yet it doesn’t take long to find stories about Metis people being discriminated against in many different areas of society.  In September of 2020 a CTV news story reported that David Chartrand the president of the Manitoba Metis Federation had sent a letter to the Manitoba Human Rights Commission alleging systemic discrimination against the Metis people throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Chartrand said the provincial government had been unwilling to work with the Metis nation in an information sharing process that would have benefited both the Metis and the Manitoba health care system.  

I photographed this sculpture titled Manitoba by Metis artist Joe Fafard at the Winnipeg Art Gallery

In 2018 almost the entire Manitoba Hydro Board, whose members had all been appointed by Premier Brian Pallister, resigned to protest the decision the premier made to not honor an agreement the board had negotiated with the Manitoba Metis Federation. Clearly there is still work to do in addressing discrimination against the Metis community. 

A pair of holidays we celebrate in February recognize the rich contributions of two diverse communities in our country. Those holidays should also remind us we need to continue to work at respecting the human rights of those communities.  

Other posts………

Making Chinese Dumplings

Manitoba is Metis

It’s Louis Riel Day

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Filed under Canada, Culture, History, Holidays, manitoba, Politics

It’s Louis Riel Day

Today is Louis Riel Day in Manitoba. I see reminders of Louis Riel everywhere in my downtown Winnipeg neighbourhood.

I live only about a fifteen-minute walk away from the Manitoba Legislature where this statue of Lois Riel faces the river. It is by artist Miguel Joyal.  It shows Louis Riel wearing his Metis sash and moccasins and holding the Manitoba Act in his hand. The act was based on a List of Rights Louis Riel wrote that asked for Manitoba to be recognized as a province by the federal government.

Even closer to my Exchange District home is the stunning Provencher Bridge. The walkway across the bridge is called The Riel Esplanade. There is beautiful artwork you can see from the esplanade that reminds us of how Louis Riel worked to preserve and protect Metis land rights and culture in Manitoba. Currently, some 90,000 Metis make their home in Manitoba.

You will find another public art piece recognizing Louis Riel just over the Provencher Bridge on the grounds of the St. Boniface Museum. It is housed in a former convent of the Grey Nuns. The nuns were Louis’ first teachers and they took him to Montreal to further his studies there. The museum contains a large collection of Louis Riel’s personal belongings. Louis Riel’s sister Sara became a Grey Nun.

This statue of Louis Riel is on the campus of the Université de Saint Boniface just a short walk from the St. Boniface Museum. It used to be at the Manitoba legislative grounds but it was so controversial it was moved. It shows Louis Riel with his face and body contorted in anguish.

Artist Marcien Lemay said he wanted to show Riel as a martyr who had suffered for his people but many Manitobans thought it was an inappropriate representation of Riel who was a statesman elected to Canada’s Parliament three times.

I live on Bannatyne Avenue. It is named after Andrew Graham Bannatyne who acted as a mediator, trying to broker an agreement between the provisional government Louis Riel established in Manitoba and the federal government. Louis Riel greatly admired Andrew’s wife Annie McDermott Bannatyne and once wrote a poem about her.

At the end of the Provencher Bridge is Joseph Royal Park. It is named after the lawyer who argued for amnesty for Louis Riel when he was tried for treason.

On the St. Boniface Basilica grounds, just a minute away from Joseph Royal Park is Louis Riel’s grave. He was tried for treason and hung in 1885.

Louis Riel was a complex man and I have read some interesting books that have helped me get to know him. But there are also many places within easy walking distance of my home in Winnipeg’s Exchange District where I can learn more about Louis Riel and the important place he holds in Manitoba history and Canadian history.

Other posts……..

Louis Riel had Three Coffins

A Graphic Louis Riel

A Controversial Statue


Filed under History, Winnipeg