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The Bill That Will Not Die (C-248)

The Bill That Will Not Die (C-248)

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Paul Chartrand writes regarding proposals to pardon Louis Riel. Paul L.A.H. Chartrand is a retired professor of law and a historian who resides in his home community of St. Laurent on Lake Manitoba on a part of the land that was originally allotted to his great-grandfather pursuant to the Manitoba Act 1870. Paul is a former Commissioner of the Manitoba Aboriginal Justice Implementation Commission and the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (1991-1996).
Paul Chartrand writes regarding proposals to pardon Louis Riel. Paul L.A.H. Chartrand is a retired professor of law and a historian who resides in his home community of St. Laurent on Lake Manitoba on a part of the land that was originally allotted to his great-grandfather pursuant to the Manitoba Act 1870. Paul is a former Commissioner of the Manitoba Aboriginal Justice Implementation Commission and the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (1991-1996).

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Lawrence J. Barkwell on Jul 24, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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06/19/2014

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The bill that will not die
Comment by Paul Chartrand
 Eagle Feather News
, December, 2010: 6.Well they are at it again. The annual memorial services for Louis Riel which are held on Nov. 16 was an occasion for another politician to peddle his view that Parliament should pardon Riel. At great risk of repeating myself I will again be drawn into the debate aboutthe bill that will not die. Let me blame a friend who talked me into doing this and whowill remain unnamed.Bill C-248 was a private member’s bill introduced by MP Pat Martin of Winnipeg, who isnot a Métis. The bill has the same basic features as the many other such ill-advised bills.Martin was quoted in newspapers as he spoke about his bill on Nov. 16 on the occasionof the memorial ceremonies that are held at Riel’s grave in the cemetery of St. BonifaceCathedral every year.The usual features of such bills include glowing high-minded phrases, followed by oneshort paragraph that would ‘exonerate’ or ‘pardon’ Riel, or, as this one does, “deem to beinnocent of the charge of high treason’.Then comes the back-sliding and statements that mean “this bill really means very little.”I will spare you the technical legal details except for the little jewel of a paragraph thatdeclares “throughout Canada … the 15th day of July shall be known as “Louis Riel Day”,followed by the quick back-shuffle “for greater certainty Louis Riel Day is not a legalholiday or a non-juridical day.”The bill then moves on to pretend to ‘grant’ the “Minister of Heritage” the authority toerect plaques or monuments. The only small concession to merit in this bill is the proposal to “establish a scholarship program for Métis students in Louis Riel’s name.”This bill scores high marks, as do the others like it, for mangling the facts of history tosuit its high-minded purposes. But this one includes an unwitting note of irony in itsstatement that the Minister of Heritage may “take appropriate steps to respect thehistorical record”. The first and best step the Minister might take is to reject this bill andits revisionist history. Now, what is really wrong with the idea of legislation that seeks to pardon Riel? After allit is an undeniable fact that a nation’s history is sometimes spun out of tales that havetheir historical foundation in fiction rather than truth. There is nothing wrong with that because the purpose of fables or ‘folklore’ is to instruct generations about the values thatare important to the people and the nation.My view against such bills is based on the idea that Métis people ought to be confidentlyand spiritually self-sufficient so that our own belief in our heroes and rascals is whatreally matters to us.1

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