Famous Citizens

A Mural For Bill Norrie

bill norrie mural langside and ell iceI was walking to the West End Cultural Centre on Sunday night and went past this mural.  Unveiled in September of 2013 it pays tribute to Winnipeg mayor Bill Norrie who died in July of 2012.  Bill Norrie grew up not too far from its location at the corner of Ellice and Langside. 

Tom Lamb - A Sculpture by Leo Mol on the Bill Norrie mural

Tom Lamb – A Sculpture by Leo Mol on the Bill Norrie mural

Bill’s wife Helen Norrie, whose photo is displayed prominently in the mural, said at the mural’s unveiling that she appreciated the way it pictured so many of the things her husband was passionate about and interested in. For example the mural includes a sculpture of Tom Lamb by Winnipeg artist Leo Mol. Norrie officially opened Mol’s sculpture garden in Assiniboine Park during his last year in office. There is also a panda, since Bill Norrie helped to bring the pandas to Winnipeg. 

bill norrie at his desk muralThe mural was painted by local artists Michel Saint Hilaire and Mandy van Leeuwen and shows the former mayor sitting at his desk surrounded by items that were meaningful to him. bill norrie's family home on banningThe artists have even included a likeness of Bill Norrie’s childhood home on Banning Street.

The Norrie cottage and a panda

The Norrie cottage and a panda

Bill Norrie was the mayor of Winnipeg from 1979-1992 and at the mural’s unveiling current mayor Sam Katz characterized him as a kind and gentle man who loved his community. University of Winnipeg president Dr. Lloyd Axworthy also paid tribute to Norrie saying, “he never forgot his roots.” 

Helen Norrie photo on Bill Norrie mural

Helen Norrie photo on Bill Norrie mural

Helen Norrie observed, “Bill loved Winnipeg and this mural shows that.”

Other posts about Bill Norrie…….

Words of Wisdom from Winnipeg Mayor  Bill Norrie

Other posts about murals……..

Gunn’s Bakery

The Winnipeg Strike

Other posts about Leo Mol…..

Visiting the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden

Tom Lamb Mr. North

Tree Children

 

Categories: Famous Citizens, Murals, Politics, West End | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Nathan Rogers at The West End Cultural Centre

nathan-rogersThis month I went to hear Winnipeg musician Nathan Rogers give a concert featuring the songs of his famous father Stan Rogers at the West End Culutral Centre. It was a great show!  I did a post on my blog What Next about it called Nathan Rogers: A Family Story That Tugs at Your Heart Strings.  Why not check it out? 

Categories: Culture, Famous Citizens, West End | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Mennonites and Canada’s First Nations People Have More in Common Than You Think

IMG_5751Mennonites and Canada’s First Nations people have many things in common. I was surprised to hear that statement from Ovide Mercredi last Friday night at Thunder Bird House on Winnipeg’s Main Street.  Mr. Mercredi, a lawyer, and former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, was speaking at a dinner and program organized by Mennonite Church Manitoba and Mennonite Church Canada, as part of their mission to build mutually beneficial relationships with our country’s indigenous people. 

13011_ovide_mercrediMr. Mercredi said both Mennonites and Canada’s First Nations people know what it means to be oppressed. Mennonites left Ukraine and fled to Canada to be free from oppression. Mr. Mercredi noted that unlike Mennonites, Canada’s indigenous people have had no other countries to which they have been able to flee, in order to escape the oppression they have experienced in their native land.

 Upon their arrival in Manitoba in the 1870s the Mennonites were given two large reserves of land both east and west of the Red River. Canada’s First Nations people were also given reserves of land by the government. The Mennonites received 6% of Manitoba’s land at the time of their settlement. The First Nations received a much smaller percentage of the province’s land for their reserves. Mennonites were given good agricultural land, while Canada’s indigenous people were given mostly muskeg.

 Mr. Mercredi explained that another thing his people and Mennonites have in common is strong religious beliefs and an abiding faith in the Creator. The Canadian government allowed Mennonites to practice their faith freely, and even granted them special dispensation to remain true to their religious belief in pacifism, exempting them from military service.  First Nations people on the other hand had their spiritual practices outlawed by the Indian Act and the government tried to convert their children to Christianity by forcing them to attend residential schools.

Finally, like Mennonites, Mr. Mecredi said his people belong to a collective entity, a community with which they can identify. Mr. Mecredi fears the Harper government’s plan to introduce legislation that would allow First Nations members living on reserves to own their own property will irrevocably damage that collective identity. 

Although Ovide Mecredi said he was going to talk about how Mennonites and Canada’s First Nations people were the same, he essentially talked about how we are different, how much more privileged Mennonites have been.

Mr. Mecredi is a knowledgeable and articulate spokesperson for Canada’s First Nations and he used his platform on Friday night to educate us about the challenges facing his people and to explain a concept he called a double understanding. It describes a relationship where both parties not only listen, but they also genuinely hear one another, and try to understand one other’s point of view.

Cartoon by Terry Mosher- Aislin- 1991- from the collection of the McCord Museum- Montreal

Cartoon by Terry Mosher- Aislin- 1991- from the collection of the McCord Museum- Montreal

 He emphasized the need for a double understanding between Canada’s First Nations people and the current government, warning the country is headed for real conflict if that kind of working relationship cannot be established. He said there are now thousands of university educated aboriginal leaders who will rise up across the country to bring about necessary change in a peaceful way. The Idle No More movement protesting the government’s Bill C-45 is an example of the kind of political action we can expect to see.

I left Thunderbird House on Friday night keenly aware that everyone has a role to play in helping reach a double understanding with Canada’s First Nations people, not just Mennonites, but all religious groups and all Canadians.

If you enjoyed this post you might also like……….

Residential Schools- The Hiroshima of the Indian Nations

 There Must Be 50 Ways to Use a Bison

Words of Wisdom From Winnipeg Mayor Bill Norrie

Categories: Churches, Downtown, Famous Citizens, Historical Events, Politics | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leo Mol Sculpture Garden

When our friend Rebekah was here spending a few days with us we took her to the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden in Assiniboine Park. The garden is filled with beautiful flowers.  It was awash with bright pinks, purples, reds and yellows on our visit. Can you see Dave and Rebekah hiding in the flowers in the picture below?I’m sure in fall and spring the garden will feature a different but equally stunning color scheme with the flowers that are in bloom at that time. Here Dave is showing Rebekah had to snap open the mouth of a snapdragon. 

The name snapdragon comes from the flowers’ response to having their “throats” squeezed, which makes the “mouth” of the blossom snap open like a dragon’s mouth.

Leo Mol who died in 2009 is probably Winnipeg’s most famous and prolific artist. You can find his sculptures all over the world. His likenesses of three different popes are in the Vatican and he sculpted American presidents Dwight Eishenhower and John F. Kennedy as well as British prime minister Winston Churchill. Despite his international fame, Leo Mol remained determinedly loyal to his adopted home in Winnipeg where he found a safe haven after leaving Ukraine in the 1940’s. 

The Leo Mol sculpture garden has more than 300 of Leo Mol’s works many of them donated by the artist.  There are two buildings on site– one a gallery featuring some of his smaller art pieces and the other the old school-house which once served as Mol’s workshop. Leo Mol sculpted such a variety of subjects. 

Biblical figures like MosesMythical figures like Europa and the bull

Fellow Canadian artists like A.Y. Jackson, member of the famous Group of Seven

Sculptures influenced by his Ukrainian heritage like The Blind Bandurist

Likenesses of famous Canadians like William Stephenson–the spy called IntrepidSculptures of ordinary Canadians like this Family GroupWorld famous figures like Queen Elizabeth

I especially enjoyed watching the National Film Board movie Leo Mol In Light and Shadow being shown in his school-house studio. It tells the story of how Leo was reunited with his sister after not being able to communicate with his family back in Ukraine for over fifty years. I learned that besides creating sculptures Leo also designed and made stained glass windows. 

The Leo Mol Sculpture garden is a serene and rejuvenating kind of place. There are huge shady trees to cool you, the scent of thousands of flowers, the sound of water running into the lily pond and plenty of excellent art to look at and think about. 

Rebekah took this picture of Dave and me enjoying the day in the Leo Mol Garden. 

You might want to check out these other posts I have done about Leo Mol sculptures in Winnipeg

Tom Lamb- Mr. North

James Bond is  From Winnipeg

Tree Children

Categories: Famous Citizens, Parks, Sculptures | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Words of Wisdom from Winnipeg Mayor Bill Norrie

“An eye for an eye makes everyone blind.”

Last month former Winnipeg mayor Bill Norrie passed away at age 83.  In an article in the Winnipeg Free Press the city’s present mayor Sam Katz praised Norrie for his phenomenal dedication to the city. Norrie served as the mayor for thirteen years. Although I didn’t know Bill Norrie personally I have never forgotten his commencement address in 2003 at the University of Manitoba. Our son was graduating and  I made notes during Mr. Norrie’s speech because I wanted to remember his inspiring words. Bill Norrie was an honorary chancellor of the university.

  “An eye for eye makes everyone blind”.  Chancellor Bill Norrie used that bit of wisdom from the great Hindu spiritual teacher Mahatma Ghandi during his address to the University of Manitoba graduates just before he presented their degrees.  Mr. Norrie encouraged them to join the quest for justice and peace in our world. He noted with regret the many armed conflicts around the globe. The chancellor challenged the graduates to better the world by becoming active volunteers with cutting edge views. He encouraged them to take the kind of bold actions that bring about positive change. Norrie expressed his hope that the students would work to make Winnipeg and Manitoba welcoming places. He reminded them that at the university they had enjoyed friendships and mutually beneficial learning experiences with people of many different nationalities, cultures,  life styles and religions. “The University of Manitoba student body is a snapshot of the world”, he said. “I think all here should be proud to know that this university had taken the lead in building bridges between diverse communities.” Mr. Norrie’s words were a call to the graduates to make the Manitoba communities in which they would live and work places where people of varied races, ethnic backgrounds and religious faiths respected one another’s differences and were enriched by them.            

Chancellor Norrie ended his remarks with a prayer written by Sir Francis Drake in 1577.

Disturb us Lord,

When we are too well pleased with ourselves,

When our dreams have come true

Because we dreamed too little,

When we arrived safely

Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us Lord, to dare more boldly.

Venturing on winter seas

Where storms will show your mastery.

Where losing sight of land

We shall find the stars.

                  What an exciting challenge to live a life where we risk much, to accomplish much, all the while trusting God to steer us towards the stars. 

You might also want to read…..

What’s Ghandi Doing In Winnipeg

               

Categories: Famous Citizens, Politics | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

The Famous Five

You are not persons” the Supreme Court of Canada told these five women in 1927 when they petitioned the court to determine whether as ‘persons’ they were eligible for appointment to Canada’s Senate. The court said they weren’t really people and therefore ineligible for Senate appointment. The  five women didn’t give up their fight and appealed to the British Privy Judicial Council who ruled they were indeed people. They are known as Canada’s Famous Five for their important contribution to women’s rights in Canada. 

Walking across the grounds of the Manitoba Legislature this summer I stopped to photograph this statue of the Famous Five created by Helen Granger Young and unveiled in June of 2010.  The five women are……….

Henrietta Muir Edwards who founded the Victorian Order of Nurses and set up a house in Montreal for single working women, a forerunner of the YWCA.  She was married to a doctor and had three children.

Emily Murphy was a bestselling author married to an Anglican minister and the mother of four daughters. She was the first female appointed as a magistrate in the British Empire. She was instrumental in having the Dower Act passed which ensured that upon the death of a man his widow was entitled to at least a third of his estate.

Irene Parlby sponsored the Minimum Wage Act for Women in 1925 and as the President of the United Farm Women of Alberta did much to improve health care for rural women and children. She was the second female cabinet minister in Canada. Married to a farmer and the mother of one son, Irene was the first woman given an honorary degree by the University of Alberta. 

Louise McKinney was an excellent debater and a member of the Alberta Legislature where she was instrumental in passing legislation to support people with disabilities, immigrants, widowed and single women. A teacher, she and her husband traveled together.

Nellie McClung is perhaps the most famous of the Famous Five because she played a key role in women getting the right to vote and run for public office in Manitoba in 1916. Manitoba was the first province to give women the vote in Canada. She was married to a pharmacist,had five children and was a best-selling novelist.

There are also statues of the Famous Five in Ottawa on Parliament Hill and when I visited there several years ago I posed with Emily Murphy. 

Here my daughter-in-law and her sister and I are between Irene Parlby and Nellie McClung who is holding up the newspaper with the headline Women are Persons. 

My husband and daughter-in-law sip tea with Henrietta Muir and Louise McKinney.

I’m glad to know there are statues of the Famous Five in Winnipeg and I don’t have to go all the way to Ottawa to see them.  Around the sculptures in Winnipeg is an enclosing circle of brick engraved with a quote from Nellie McClung. 

I want to leave something behind when I go; some small legacy of truth, some word that will shine in a dark place.

If you enjoyed this post you might also like these posts about other statues of famous people in Winnipeg…………..

What’s Ghandi Doing In Winnipeg

James Bond is From Winnipeg

John Hirsch Place

 

Categories: Downtown, Famous Citizens, Historical Events, Politics, Statues | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Mariaggi- A Hotel With A History

Meet Frank Mariaggi! He’s the dapper looking fellow in the mustache sitting front and centre in this photo. Mariaggi was born in Corsica in 1847. He came to Manitoba in 1870 with the troops sent here by Canada’s first prime minister.  Sir John A. MacDonald wanted to assert federal authority because the Metis led by Louis Riel were trying to set up a provisional government. 

Frank liked it in Manitoba and decided to stay.  He married a woman from Gimli, and began to dabble in real estate. In 1903 he opened a hotel named after himself in the Alexander Block which had been constructed by two Winnipeg lawyers at the corner of Winnipeg’s Albert and McDermot streets. 

The hotel was very elegant. It had both single rooms and suites. The suites had their own bathrooms, fancy furniture and steam heat. They were decorated with velvet carpets, thick drapes, oak chairs covered in leather, brass beds and oriental couches. An enclosed horse-drawn carriage picked up wealthy guests from the Canadian Pacific Railroad Station. Meals were served at all hours.

There were separate dining rooms for men and women and Frank himself was the chef. He had a farm on the city outskirts where he raised vegetables, poultry and Jersey cows so he’d have fresh produce for his menu items.  You had to pay extra for meals at the Mariaggi Hotel, but they were worth it. Most other hotels at the time included meals in their nightly rate. The Mariaggi boasted an oyster bar, a Turkish bath and a sparkling fountain. 

The Grotto made the Mariaggi the toast of the town. There were four small dining rooms and a bar in the hotel basement. Sand and mortar were knotted on the walls and at the centre was a pool with goldfish. The whole concept was intriguing and just a bit risqué and drew in patrons in droves. The Mariaggi was also a favorite watering hole for Winnipeg newspaper reporters. Interestingly today the Free Press Cafe is located in the same building that once housed the original Mariaggi Hotel. 

Frank Mariaggi was an innovative man and a successful one. He made a fortune in land dealings in Winnipeg and Port Arthur and then moved back to Corsica in 1908. He purchased his father’s estate and restored it and was named the mayor of the local village. He died in 1918. 

Today there is a new Mariaggi Hotel in the very same building where the old one was located. During Winnipeg’s Doors Open event last month I took a tour.

Owner Don Laluk told us the hotel is a theme hotel. Each room is decorated to look like a certain part of the world– Morocco, Japan, Rome, India, Hawaii, Bali and the Caribbean. The rooms rent from $245 a night to $600 a night. Each room is completely different. Although 80% of the hotel’s clients are Winnipeg people looking for a unique experience they also have guests from Europe and from all over North America. 

In February 2012 CBC News reported that the Mariaggi had won a Trip Advisor award for being one of the ten most romantic hotels in the world.  Although that certainly sounds promising, the sixteen comments posted beneath the news item resoundingly denounced the Mariaggi for many things including poor service, poor ventilation, paper-thin walls, pushy staff and having to pay extra to have the Jacuzzi filled.

However on the Trip Advisor site there are 147 reviews and virtually all of them are positive. So I guess you have to visit the hotel and find out for yourself. All the rooms have hot tubs, big screen TV’s and fireplaces. Meal service and spa service is available at an extra cost.

I had walked by the Mariaggi Hotel many times and wondered what it was like inside. I’m glad the Doors Open Winnipeg event afforded me a peek at the interior. 

Now that I’ve seen the hotel, I don’t really need to stay there. My curiosity has been satisfied.  The old photos displayed on the walls inside the hotel which I spotted on my tour, inspired me to do some research about the Mariaggi’s history and it was interesting to learn about Frank Mariaggi and the first Mariaggi Hotel. 

Information for this article came from………

A 1984 Winnipeg Historical Buildings Report

Virtual Heritage Winnipeg

The Manitoba Historical Society

Categories: Buildings, Businesses, Exchange District, Famous Citizens, Restaurants | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

John Hirsch Place- A Theatrical Winnipeg Street

The street that runs behind Winnipeg’s Ashdown Warehouse where I live, is named after an orphan from Hungary whose father was shot in Germany and whose mother and brother were gassed at Auschwitz.

John Hirsch Place honors one of the  founders of the Manitoba Theatre Centre, the first regional theatre in Canada.  John Hirsch came to Winnipeg in 1947, at age 17 as a war orphan and was taken in by Alex and Pauline Shack . He remained a close member of their family till the day he died of AIDS in 1989. 

Hirsh who is immortalized in this statue outside the Manitoba Theatre Centre, went to St. John’s High School and the University of Manitoba while working as an office boy for a real estate agency. I first heard Hirsch’s life story from writer and politician Roland Penner who was my teacher in a class called Winnipeg Fact and Fiction at McNally Robinsons Community Classroom.  

Hirsch was in the drama club at St. John’s and directed plays at the University of Manitoba.  John’s adoptive family, the Shacks were skeptical when he said he wanted to have a career in theatre, but he got a grant from the Junior League of Winnipeg and created a puppet show to take to schools and community clubs.  He and a friend got the City of Winnipeg to sponsor them to put on three musical comedies at the band stand at Assiniboine Park one summer, and then he landed himself a gig as the first paid artistic director of Winnipeg’s amateur Little Theatre. This led to a job with CBC television when it was launched in 1954. 

After studying in London John came back to Winnipeg in 1957 and founded the Manitoba Theatre Centre (MTC) with Tom Hendry. Hendry is sitting on the chair in front of Hirsch in this art piece called Imagine created by Ruth Abernathy that is just outside the present day MTC building. MTC was where well-known Canadian actors like Martha Henry, Len Cariou and Gordon Pinsent had their start.

In a review of a biography of Hirsch called A Fiery Soul, National Post writer Robert Cushman quotes Hirsch as saying he was part of four mafias, Jewish, Hungarian, homosexual and Winnipeg. In the Globe and Mail review of the same biography, reviewer Keith Garebian uses the mafia quote as well,  and adds that Hirsch often behaved like a ‘godfather’. He had hot-tempered outbursts, bullied his actors and skillfully manipulated events for his political and financial advantage. Despite this, many actors admired him, and were honored to work for him. In an interview for the Theatre Museum of Canada, actress Martha Henry calls Hirsch a genius. 

John Hirsch eventually went on to jobs at the Stratford Shakespearean Festival, The Lincoln Center Theatre in New York and directed plays at the Shaw Festival, and at theatres in many Canadian and American cities.  He was accorded honorary doctorates at the universities of Manitoba, Toronto, Victoria and Winnipeg and was an officer of the Order of Canada. He is perhaps best known for his play The Dybbuk.

The main stage of the Manitoba Theatre Centre is named after John Hirsch as this banner outside the theatre attests. Many consider him Canada’s greatest director. 

I’m glad John Hirsch founded the Manitoba Theatre Centre. I have seen dozens of plays there in the past. Now I love living so close that I can leave our condo just minutes before the curtain is about to rise, pop home for a drink at intermission and be home and in bed shortly after the performance.

When my husband and I were in university we served as volunteer ushers at MTC so we could get into the shows for free. We’ve been thinking that being MTC volunteers is something we might like to do again now that we’re retired. 

If you liked this post you might also enjoy…………..

The Street Where I Live

We’re Living in a Piece of History

Carol Shields

 

Categories: Exchange District, Famous Citizens | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Flying Bandit

I’m taking a course with Roland Penner a well-known Manitoba lawyer. Our class is called Winnipeg Fact or Fiction. In my first post about the course I wrote about the Winnipeg Strike. Our second class was about a famous Winnipeg criminal, Kenneth Leishman. Roland was intimately familiar with his case because he defended Leishman’s accomplice Harry Backlin in court. Although Leishman’s story honestly sounds like fiction, Roland gave us a good factual account of what actually happened. 

March 3 of 1966 Ken Leishman masterminded the theft of nearly $400,000 in gold bars from the Winnipeg International Airport and he almost got away with it. The gold was coming into Winnipeg from Red Lake, en route to the mint in Ottawa and Ken knew it had no police protection as it was moved from the plane to the airport. He took advantage of this and posing as an Air Canada driver intercepted the gold and drove away with it.

Harry Backlin, a lawyer Ken had known in prison was part of the scheme. He was on a planned holiday in California so it would look like he wasn’t involved. On his return from the United States Backlin was going to take the gold to Hong Kong and sell it. Ken went to Harry’s house right after the heist and told Harry’s mother-in-law who had not gone to California, that he was Harry’s friend and was going to store some moose meat in his freezer. That’s where he stashed the gold, planning to pick it up the next day and take it to his uncle’s farm in Treherne. 

Unfortunately for Ken a huge blizzard hit Winnipeg that night and he couldn’t get out of the city in the morning. In desperation he hid the gold in the snow banks in Harry’s backyard, which made Harry pretty upset when he arrived home. Harry’s plans to go to Hong Kong were thwarted when there was a problem with his passport so Ken decided to go to Hong Kong to sell the gold himself. He sawed off a piece of gold to take to Hong Kong in his briefcase as a sample to sell. However Ken needed a small pox vaccination to go to Hong Kong. Harry arranged one with a friend who was a doctor. There was supposed to be a seven-day waiting period after a vaccination but Ken convinced the doctor to lie and put the wrong date on the vaccination form so he could leave Canada right away. The doctor feeling guilty confessed what he’d done to a friend who was a police officer. The police officer recognized Ken’s name. Ken had been high on the police list of suspects for the gold robbery because of his previous criminal activity.  The RCMP made plans to arrest Ken in the Vancouver airport when he arrived there on his way to Hong Kong. Ken managed to get out of the airport long enough to get rid of the gold in his briefcase before he was arrested. It was never found. 

Ken made the mistake of explaining the robbery in detail to the man sharing his cell in Vancouver. He was an RCMP agent incarcerated with Ken for the purpose of extracting incriminating information. After Ken’s Vancouver jail house confession the gold was dug up from Harry’s backyard and Ken was sent to jail in Headingly, Manitoba to await trial. 

Unbelievably Ken managed to escape from Headingly, was recaptured in Indiana and sent to the Vaughn Street Detention Centre and he escaped from there too. Finally he was tried, convicted and sent to prison for twelve years, however he managed to get out of prison after just eight years for good behavior. 

Following his prison release Ken and his wife Elva and their seven children moved to Red Lake where they opened a store and Ken became a pillar of the community, even serving as president of the Red Lake Chamber of Commerce. 

Ken, a former pilot began flying mercy flights taking people from northern communities to hospitals. In 1979 while flying one of these mercy flights his plane went missing. It took almost five months of searching but remains of the aircraft and human bodies were eventually found. 

My course with Roland Penner is called Winnipeg Fact and Fiction and for each event in Winnipeg history we study, Roland recommends several fictional accounts. I read Heather Robertson’s The Flying Bandit. It is fiction, because Heather invents conversation and actions and scenes, but she does stick very closely to the actual events that happened. 

I liked the book because I learned lots more about Ken Leishman’s personal life. He had a difficult childhood. His parents divorced. He was in a series of foster homes and lived for a while with very strict and unaffectionate grandparents. I truly admired his wife Elva ( the photo is their wedding picture) who stuck with him through everything and raised their seven children. I also learned about the crimes Ken had committed before the gold heist– two bank robberies and a break and enter at a furniture store so he could furnish an apartment to bring Elva home to after their wedding.  Ken was very successful for a time at selling Queen Anne cookware door to door. I can remember a salesman coming to our home to do a pitch for that cookware for my Mom. 

Something interesting I learned from reading the book was that when Ken escaped from Headingly Jail in September of 1966 he went to Steinbach, where my family was living at the time, and stole a plane from Abe Loewen, a pharmacist my father knew well, since Dad was a doctor in Steinbach. Ken and three other Headingly escapees flew the plane to Gary Indiana before they were arrested. 

Heather does a good job of helping us get to know Ken as a person. He truly believed he could get away with his crimes. He was a ‘nice’ man –polite, friendly, dressed neatly and fashionably, was faithful to his wife, loved his children, wrote poetry and secretly reveled in the fame his crimes brought him. 

I’ve just started reading Bandit, a novel about Kenneth Leishman written by Wayne Tefs. It has been nominated for five Manitoba book awards. I am sure to learn some new things about one of Winnipeg’s most famous criminal from reading it. 

Categories: Famous Citizens, Literature | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Controversial Statue

On Sunday afternoon Dave and I went for a walk in St. Boniface and saw this statue on the St. Boniface College campus. I recognized the statue right away since it had stood on the grounds of the Manitoba Legislature for many years. I knew it had caused quite a stir when it was unveiled and that it had been removed from the legislature. I didn’t realize it had been relocated to St. Boniface College where Louis Riel was once a student. 

The statue really has two parts. The first part is the 12 foot high cement sculpture of Louis Riel, the Metis founder of Manitoba. It was created by retired firefighter and artist Marcien Lemay.The second part of the art piece are two 30 foot high half cylinder shells that bracket the sculpture and have Riel’s name and a quote from him etched into them. The shells were made by architect Etienne Gaboury a distant relative of Louis Riel’s. 

 Artist Lemay said Louis Riel was a controversial historical figure so he wanted to create a controversial statue. He made Louis Riel’s face contorted in anguish. His body is naked and twisted. He wanted to show Riel as a martyr who suffered for his people. It is true that Louis Riel was controverisal.He spent time in a mental institution. He had some very strange fanatical religious prophesies. The Canadian government labeled him a rebel and a murderer, sent him into exile and eventually hung him.

On the other hand he is officially recognized as the founder of Manitoba. He was an educated spokesperson for the Metis people and fought valiantly and eloquently for their property rights. He was elected to the Canadian Parliament three times and Manitoba has an annual public holiday in his honor.

 Louis Riel’s name is in big letters on the bracketing walls of the artwork and near their bottom is this quote……..”Yes I have done my duty. During my life I have aimed at practical results. I hope that after I die my spirit will bring practical results. I know that through the grace of God I am the founder of Manitoba.”

 The statue caused a great deal of controversy when it was unveiled in 1970. Some people thought it was ridiculous to spend $35,000 on a statue of someone who “was unbalanced mentally and who influenced and inflamed the Metis to go on the war path.” The Metis community said, “The statue is an insult to Louis Riel and the Metis people. It is horrible- him standing there stark naked looking leery, when throughout his life and even at his execution he carried himself like a statesman.”

The statue stood at the legislature for 24 years and was attacked by vandals on many occasions. They spray painted and defaced the statue and at one point even cut off Riel’s penis.

 Finally in 1994 the statue was taken down at the Legislative grounds and a new one was put up in its place. Lemay and Gaboury’s statue was moved to St. Boniface College where it was unveiled in 1996.


If you enjoyed this blog post you might also like…………

A Graphic Louis Riel

Categories: Famous Citizens, St. Boniface, Statues | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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