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This article was published 9/4/2016 (2025 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Manitoba's Liberals says if they're elected April 19, Louis Riel would be recognized as the province's first premier.
Liberal Leader Rana Bokhari pledged Saturday to formally acknowledge Riel, the Métis leader already considered the founder of Manitoba, as the province's first premier.
Currently, that honour goes to Alfred Boyd, who served as provincial secretary from 1870 to 1871 and later was acknowledged as Manitoba's first premier.
Riel served as the leader of the provisional government of the Red River Settlement, formally known as Assiniboia, from 1869 to 1870. His portrait now hangs in the Manitoba Legislature, along portraits of leaders recognized as premiers.
"What we're hearing from Métis Manitobans is we need to take steps towards healing and towards joining everyone together," Bokhari said Saturday at Upper Fort Garry Provincial Heritage Park in downtown Winnipeg.
"This is about moving forward. This is about reconciliation. This is about all of us coming together as Manitobans to make sure we are respecting our Métis people."
As the head of a provisional government, Riel was preparing to transition Manitoba toward becoming a province. Adam Gaudry, an assistant professor of indigenous studies at the University of Saskatchewan, said while Riel played a crucial role in creating Manitoba, his vision for the province would have seen an independent Métis people play a central role.
That didn't happen, as Riel and the provisional government were run out of the Red River Settlement by armed forces from Ontario, and the Métis were never granted political primacy.
"I think it’s important to acknowledge his role, but it's also important to acknowledge how Canadian power was instrumental in marginalizing Riel," Gaudry said in a telephone interview from Saskatoon.
He said the symbolic acknowledgement of Riel as an early leader should be accompanied by substantial acts such as the resolution of a Métis land claim that stems back to the Manitoba Act.
In an emailed statement, the NDP said it was "very proud" to have worked with the Manitoba Metis Federation and the indigenous community to unveil the portrait of Riel in the legislature. The statement also mentioned the NDP government's Path to Reconciliation Act.
"We firmly believe in honouring our responsibility to work towards reconciliation, mutual understanding and respect with all Manitoba's peoples, including recognizing the special role of the Métis people in our collective history."