Posts Tagged With: louis riel statue

Louis Riel- Are Two Statues Better Than One?

louis rielLouis Riel’s important role in the history of our city and province is recognized in a new music video by Winnipeg’s own Royal Canoe featuring Exodus of the Year- my favorite song by the band. exodus of the year video royal canoeThe video shows Riel’s statue on Broadway Avenue, his statue in St. Boniface and his grave.

LRpb.tifRiel’s contributions have been recognized in many ways- in an opera, in a terrific graphic novel by Chester Brown, in the name of a Winnipeg school division, and in the February provincial holiday named after him. Two statues of Louis Riel in Winnipeg- one in St. Boniface and one on the Manitoba Legislature grounds reflect the two sides of the man who is widely known as the Father of Manitoba but was hanged as a traitor. louis riel st. boniface statueI’ve blogged about one of the Riel statues already and thought it was time to write about the other. So I stopped at 450 Broadway on a bicycle trip last week to snap some photos of the Riel statue there by artist Miguel Joyal.

louis riel statue broadway winnipegIn this statue Riel isn’t naked as he is in the St. Boniface one. louis riel boat tripHe is  dressed in a suit and vest and bowtie -although he is wearing moccasins and a sash in recognition of his Metis heritage. 

louis riel statue

He is holding the Manitoba Act in his hand which was based on a List of Rights Louis Riel wrote that included among many other things recognition of this area of Canada as a province by the federal government, the right to representatives in the House of Commons and Senate and the use of both French and English in all government communication. 

louis riel st. boniface collegeThe statue of Riel in St. Boniface (which by the way used to stand on the grounds of the Manitoba Legislature) does a better job of showing the tortured soul Riel was in many ways, and what a price he paid for his political activism, exiled for years to the United States as a wanted criminal and struggling with mental illness. 

louis riel legislatureThe statue on Broadway shows him as the great statesman, forward thinker and founder of the province of Manitoba.  It is probably good that we have both statues in our city. 

Other posts about Louis Riel…..

A Graphic Louis Riel

A Controversial Statue

The Provencher Bridge

Could I Have Been A Grey Nun?

We’re Living in a Piece of History

The Street Where I Live

 The Park At the End of the Bridge

Categories: Downtown, Politics, St. Boniface, Statues | Tags: , , , | 1 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.


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A Graphic Louis Riel

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

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