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MP Kent: 'Riel House is not closing'

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OTTAWA — Environment Minister Peter Kent said definitively today Riel House will not be closing.

Kent was on the defensive in Question Period under questioning from NDP MP Pat Martin and Liberal Denis Coderre.

"Riel House is not closing," Kent said. "Visitors will still be able to enjoy self-guided tours. The house will remain open."

He later added there will even be a staff member on site.

The Free Press is seeking additional information from Kent's office about the comments, including how the house will operate since it is cutting the $56,000 funding given annually to the St. Boniface Historical Society to run the museum.

Michel Lagace, president of the St. Boniface Historical Society, said without the funding, the society won't be able to continue its work running the museum.

Normally the funding was used to hire a director and four interpretative guides to work between May and September.

Lagace said without the money "I'm not sure we'd be interested in trying" to keep the house open.

Riel House however is actually owned by Parks Canada, not by St. Boniface Historical Society.

Lagace said there is a lot of confusion about what is happening because the society has been given no information about the decision or the government's plans for the house.

He said he heard on the radio that St. Boniface MP Shelly Glover was meeting with interested groups but said thus far he has had no contact from either Glover or Kent or anyone else in the federal government.

They found out three weeks ago the funding was being cut and that is all he knows.

"Because there isn't a set plan there is a lot of confusion," he said. "We have no idea what their plans are."

Parks Canada has been given money to run the museum's visitor programs since 1980. The amount of funding has remained unchanged for the last 10 years.

Mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca

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