Visitors can explore the province’s Métis and francophone history — for free — for the rest of the year at the Saint Boniface Museum.
The Manitoba 150 committee, overseeing celebrations of the province’s 150th anniversary, made the announcement Tuesday at the Tache Avenue centre.
"We’re the only Canadian province that entered Confederation through Indigenous leadership with the Métis Nation, and also where the people got together and determined the terms under which they wanted to join this country," said Monique LaCoste, Manitoba 150 host committee co-chairwoman.
"It’s a very unique story that speaks to who we are as Manitobans. This is a story that every Manitoban should know. Free admission at the (museum) will help bring this story to life for thousands of Manitobans."
Museum admission is normally $7 for adults and $20 for families, but is now free for individuals and families until 2021.
Representatives of the Manitoba Metis Federation were not on hand for Tuesday’s announcement. MMF president David Chartrand has reportedly blamed his frosty relationship with Premier Brian Pallister for the organization not having a bigger role in events organized by the independent Manitoba 150 committee (which receives much of its funding from the province).
However, "We want to work with everybody," said committee co-chairman Stuart Murray. More Métis and francophone Manitoba 150 events throughout the province will be announced at the Festival du Voyageur kickoff Friday, he said.
"I’m excited about the launch of (the 2020) festival culminating in Louis Riel Day," said MLA Rochelle Squires, the minister responsible for francophone affairs, who attended the museum event.
"What makes Manitoba special is everyone has a home in Manitoba."
Wearing a Métis sash, a great-grand niece of Manitoba founder Louis Riel stood before an array of cultural artifacts at the museum, asking her fellow Manitobans to get to know them.
"Please come visit the museum with your families," said Paulette Duguay, president of the Union nationale métisse Saint-Joseph du Manitoba.
"The (museum) is not just the home of historical artifacts," Murray said. "The museum itself is its own piece of history."
The building began as the convent of the Grey Nuns, who started a hospital, orphanage and school, and founded the Catholic Health Corporation of Manitoba, which is sponsoring the free museum admission.
"It’s also the first place known as a hospital in Western Canada and is the oldest building in Winnipeg," said Catholic Health chief executive officer Dan Lussier. As a museum, it’s now "the keeper of francophone and Métis heritage."
"Through learning about one another we can better understand one another... as Manitoba’s story continues to evolve."
Museum director Vania Gagnon said staff want to personalize the visits, with interpreters bringing history to life on Sundays throughout July and August at the main building and neighbouring cemetery and cathedral grounds.
Meanwhile, an announcement about which performer will be headlining this summer’s Unite 150 concert June 27 on the grounds of the Manitoba legislature will be made later, said Murray.
When asked about rumours local music legends and Guess Who greats Burton Cummings and Randy Bachman will be performing, Murray was tight-lipped: "That’s another announcement — but hang on. As they say: you don’t want to peel the onion too fast."
Carol Sanders’ reporting on newcomers to Canada has made international headlines, earned national recognition but most importantly it’s shared the local stories of the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home.
Updated on Wednesday, February 12, 2020 at 12:16 PM CST: notes Paulette Duguay is great-grand niece of Riel