Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/10/2014 (1036 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
While construction proceeds on the site of Upper Fort Garry, the multimillion-dollar provincial heritage park, slated to open Saturday, is already mired in criticism.
Construction workers were still pouring concrete Thursday ahead of the grand opening. And like the nearby Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the site will be far from complete when it's officially opened. A wall of history and an interpretative centre have yet to be built.
Behind the scenes, the approved content for the fort's history, like some of the content of the CMHR, is under attack from one of the province's founding cultural groups.
The province's Scottish population -- which founded the fort through the Hudson's Bay Co. and maintained it for all but a single year in the 19th century -- says it feels the sting of being sidelined by the official interpretation of history at the fort's grand reopening.
Only one group, the Métis, was awarded a key cultural role in the fort's history by virtue of a brief but tumultuous and pivotal period when the fort served as a key location for the Red River Resistance under Métis leader Louis Riel in 1869-70.
The province's largest Scottish council, representing military, cultural, historical and clan associations, publicly expressed its disappointment.
"The site is physically a wonderful addition to downtown," said Scottish Heritage Council president John Perrin on a tour of the site Thursday. "There's no concern about that. The concern is how events at the fort will be interpreted."
Perrin ticked off a list of oversights: None of the promotional material on the Upper Fort Garry website or planning documents recognizes Upper Fort Garry's history as a Hudson's Bay Co. fort; its integral links with Lord Selkirk and the Selkirk settlers who formed the first European colony on the Red River; the Wolseley Regiment the Dominion of Canada ordered west to enforce the Manitoba Act and the subsequent military regiments with an association to the fort, or even the Scottish masons who built the fort in the first place.
"Yet this place has one of the most intimate relationships with Scots in Canada," Perrin said.
"There's an odd, brief mention of the Scots here but not a full accounting. The council's view is simple: 'Give us a balance of history.' We don't want to be excluded or marginalized. And we don't want anybody else's history to be excluded, either," Perrin said.
So on Saturday, when organizers open Upper Fort Garry as the province's newest historical touchstone and tourist destination with Ojibwa prayers, a Scottish piper and a firm focus on the Métis contribution to the fort's history, the focus will be fundamentally unfair, Perrin said.
Email requests for comment from the province and a group of influential and wealthy supporters who raised an estimated $10 million for the work went unanswered on Thursday.
The province's Scots don't believe the misplaced focus on a single ethnic group can be laid at the door of the project's backers.
But through their spokesman, they say it's unknown how the oversight escaped notice after seven years of tireless work by a dedicated group of volunteers under the fundraising umbrella called the Friends of Upper Fort Garry. The Friends have been publicly praised for bringing a neglected piece of the province's early history back to life, they said. The group used its considerable influence, for instance, to raise $10 million in 107 days to purchase the site for development in 2008, an achievement the group boasts about on its website.
The group's website also emphasizes the fort's importance to the province's history, even incorporating a quote from one of Canada's foremost historical and cultural commentators, John Ralston Saul, who called Upper Fort Garry a "linchpin of Canadian history."
All of which makes the focus on the Métis chapter to the near-exclusion of every other part of the fort's history all the more mystifying, Perrin said.
A planning document obtained by Free Press, however, makes it clear the Métis chapter was deliberately chosen as the most influential contribution in the fort's history.
The 80-page Upper Fort Garry Heritage Park and Interpretive Centre called for a specific focus on the Métis experience at the fort, under a heading entitled Upper Fort Garry and the Red River Resistance.
The document also stated planners cut specific themes from a list of priorities to be recognized as critical to the fort's history. The Hudson's Bay Co., its role with aboriginal peoples, and the fur trade were cut and listed as "opportunities to revisit in future phases of the project."
Why does Winnipeg seem to have so much trouble completing projects such as museums and historic parks? Join the conversation in the comments below.