Manitoba Métis leader to ask Pope Francis to bless Louis Riel’s grave

Manitoba Métis leader to ask Pope Francis to bless Louis Riel’s grave

by Sue Jones
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The president of the Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF) will ask Pope Francis to bless the grave of Louis Riel during a papal visit to Canada expected in late July.

David Chartrand

David Chartrand, president of the Manitoba Métis Federation (centre), attends mass at the Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. (Kat Patenaude/Supplied)

WARNING: This story contains distressing details

The president of the Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF) will ask Pope Francis to bless the grave of Louis Riel during a papal visit to Canada expected in late July.

David Chartrand said he will make the request during a private meeting between the Pope and 55 Manitoba Métis delegates on Thursday at the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City.

“I hope that I can convince the Pope to come to Canada, come and bless a man and his grave who gave everything, not only for the Métis people, but for the church,” Chartrand said.

Louis Riel was a Métis leader who was instrumental in the creation of Manitoba and in the 1800s led the Red River and North-West resistance movements against Prime Minister John A. Macdonald’s government.

Canada Indigenous Vatican

Pope Francis holds an audience in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace with First Nations, Inuit and Métis delegates on April 1. (Vatican Media/Reuters)

Instead of carrying a gun, Chartrand said, Riel carried a cross and was a devout Catholic. 

Riel was executed for treason on Nov. 16, 1885 at the North-West Mounted Police barracks in Regina. He’s buried at Saint-Boniface Cathedral cemetery in Winnipeg.

Winnipeg is not one of the three Canadian cities that, according to sources involved in planning the trip, are being strongly considered for the Pope’s visit. Chartrand said he hopes to change that.

“I will do my best to try to convince the Pope that Manitoba is where he is to go,” Chartrand said.

CBC News is not identifying the sources because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

Manitoba Métis meeting follows initial apology

Pope Francis is meeting with the MMF delegation nearly three weeks after issuing an initial apology for the conduct of some church members at residential schools. He made that apology to First Nations, Métis and Inuit delegations following private meetings at the Vatican.

“I accept the apology on behalf of my people,” Chartrand said.

Louis Riel Commemoration Ceremony

Wreaths placed next to a portrait of Louis Riel. (Fernand Detillieux/CBC/Radio-Canada)

MMF requested a separate papal audience after it withdrew from the Métis National Council (MNC) last fall in response to membership issues involving the Métis Nation Ontario.

In January, MNC filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit in Ontario Superior Court against Chartrand and dozens of other individuals and consultants, including MNC president Clément Chartier.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

Day school survivor to tell Pope to protect children

Andrew Carrier, the vice-president of the MMF’s Winnipeg region, is one of the speakers who will address the Pope on Thursday. 

Carrier said he plans to speak with the Pope about his experience at the Catholic-run day school École Sainte-Marie in St. Vital. He said he was sexually molested there by a priest at the age of seven.

“The fact that we got to go home at the end of the day did not diminish the impact of both verbal and sexual abuse or sometimes physical abuse that happened to the children while in class,” said Carrier, who is the MMF minister of day and residential schools.

“It’s really important to understand that the impact is the same. We need to do a better job in how we protect our children.”

Andrew Carrier

Day school survivor Andrew Carrier (centre) intends to speak to Pope Francis about protecting children from abuse. (Kat Patenaude/Supplied)

Despite the abuse, Carrier said he plans to tell the Pope he still believes in God and the church.

The Red River Métis have a relationship with the Roman Catholic Church that spans more than two centuries. 

In 1817, Chartrand said, the Métis petitioned to have churches come to Western Canada.

Papal visit announcement coming soon

The Pope announced plans for a Canadian trip on April 1 when he met with Indigenous delegates.  

His itinerary is still being finalized and an announcement from the Vatican is expected soon. 

During a visit to Sipekne’katik First Nation on Wednesday, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller said the Pope will be visiting Canada this year. 

WATCH | Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister 

Minister confirms Pope will visit Canada this year

Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Marc Miller says Pope Francis will visit Canada this year as part of the reconciliation process with Indigenous communities. CBC News has learned that the trip is expected to take place in late July. 0:21

Miller was in the community to announce $326,700 to help ongoing research at the site of the former Shubenacadie Indian Residential School.

“This is the first step in what will no doubt be one of many in getting to the bottom of a very nasty reality that is the shame of Canada and is one that we have to acknowledge, particularly in a year where the Pope will be visiting,” Miller said.

Support is available for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools or by the latest reports.

A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419

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