June 30, 2015

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The bell returns

The Bell of Batoche is coming out of hiding for the first time since it was lifted from an Ontario legion hall 22 years ago in the dead of night. Its return to the public stage is not merely a cause for M©tis celebration -- it's a victory for Canadian history.

The bell is an iconic representation of the M©tis resistance in western Canada, where Louis Riel fought two battles on behalf of minority rights, making him an early advocate of the principles of multiculturalism that define the country today.

Philosopher John Ralston Saul has even argued Canada should be seen as a "M©tis nation" because, in his view, it was shaped by aboriginal ideas and values.

A M©tis association is to announce plans for the bell's future Friday, but it won't be unveiled until July 20 at a special mass at the historic church in Batoche, Sask., where the bell summoned Catholic parishioners to church until it was stolen as a war trophy in 1885 following the battle.

The church is part of a national historic site operated by Parks Canada, but it is only open during the summer. The new owners of the bell should consider moving the artifact among several communities, including Regina, where Riel was hanged for treason in 1885, and St. Boniface, where Riel was born and buried.

The ringing of the bell on Louis Riel Day in Manitoba would add a special poignancy to the celebration of a man and a people who helped build and define Canada.

It may even come to be known as a symbol of unity.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 20, 2013 A14

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