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This article was published 18/10/2014 (1040 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Provincial cabinet ministers announced a $1 million grant on Saturday to cement efforts to transform Upper Fort Garry as the focus of the Metis nation and the birthplace of Manitoba in downtown Winnipeg.
The ceremony opening the newest provincial heritage park was attended by dignitaries from the Manitoba Metis Federation and the park's principal developers.
In announcing the grant, Multicultural Minister Flor Marcelino said the sponsorship was drawn from Manitoba Lotteries and Liquor and earmarked for a Heritage Wall, part of the park's next phase.
"The heritage wall symbolizes the original west wall of the Fort and it will give visitors a new way of interpreting out history. It will be one of the largest displays of public art in Canada," the minister said.
The donation delighted the principal developers, a group of the province's most prominent academic luminaries, industry leaders and elder political statesmen who have spearheaded the fundraising and design of the 1.4 hectare site on Main Street between Assiniboine Avenue and Broadway. The original fort was demolished in the 1880s, leaving one stone gate from Upper Fort Garry still in place.
The group, known as the Friends of Upper Fort Garry, still have millions of dollars to raise to complete the park, including the heritage wall and a $13 million interpretive centre.
"It depends on how fast it goes. It's about $15 million and it's a big challenge but we've done this so far and we'll keep going," said the group's chairman, Gerald Gray.
Manitoba Metis Federation official Ron Chartrand told the gathering the park's primary significance was as a Metis location.
"Upper Fort Garry is the birthplace of the Metis Nation," Chartrand said. "It's here in 1869 that the Metis introduced what's been described as the first bill of rights...this will be the site to showcase the Metis national heritage centre."
The project has been the focus of debate this week, with the province's Scottish community expressing disappointment over plans to focus on the former Hudson Bay Company fort as a place of significance to the Metis, without including the importance it holds for the province's other founding partners, including their own forefathers.
Senior Manitoba cabinet minister Gordon Mackintosh met that issue head-on in his remarks, saying the Scots will get their time in the sun later on.
"As for the Scots," said Mackintosh, "I"m assured that as the next phase unfolds...the Scottish role will be fairly portrayed. But let's be clear. Unlike too often in our history lessons, when one perspective was all there was, we must incorporate other equally important perspectives. I'm reminded of this imperative from my most Scottish grandmother," he said.
To appreciative chuckles from about 100 guests, the minister poked gentle fun at his grandmother's tendency to consider everyone who was not Scottish as a foreigner in Canada.
One kilted highlander at the event said he arrived not knowing whether he would be welcomed or treated as a pariah. He said dignitaries walked by him without acknowledging him, despite knowing him personally.