RCMP signs agreement with Métis people to return historical artifacts

September 23, 2017
Winnipeg, Manitoba

News release

Images

Louis Riel

Today, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) signed an agreement to return certain artifacts once belonging or related to the Métis people and Louis Riel.

RCMP Deputy Commissioner (D/Commr) Kevin Brosseau, Contract and Aboriginal Policing, along with Manitoba Metis Federation (MMF) President David Chartrand and Métis National Council (MNC) President Clément Chartier signed the agreement this morning at the MMF's Annual General Assembly in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

The RCMP recognizes the importance of these items to the Métis people and has been working with the MMF and MNC to ensure their repatriation. D/Commr Brosseau spoke this morning of the Government of Canada's commitment to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, and to improving the RCMP's relationship with them in every way possible.

The artifacts are connected to Louis Riel and include a crucifix and knife, as well as a book of his poetry. These and other items are currently on public display in the RCMP Heritage Centre next to the RCMP Academy in Regina, Saskatchewan. The signed agreement states that the RCMP Heritage Centre will continue to act as caretaker of the items until the Métis Nation finds a suitable location for them. The formal transfer of the items is expected within the next two years.

The agreement also commits the RCMP to identifying additional Métis artifacts that it has documented ownership of at the RCMP Heritage Centre, sharing this information with the MMF and MNC, and repatriating any Métis artifacts they identify.

Quotes

The RCMP is committed to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. Louis Riel, through his lifelong struggle to protect the social, cultural and political status of his fellow Métis, played a significant role in the history of Canadian Confederation. The repatriation of these artifacts is important to the Métis people, and I am happy we have an agreement that will keep these historic items accessible to the public.

Deputy Commissioner Kevin Brosseau, Contract and Aboriginal Policing, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

The repatriation of the personal effects of our revered leader Louis Riel marks a good first step in reconciliation between the Métis Nation and the RCMP. We welcome this gesture. I look forward to the transfer of these personal items to the Métis National Heritage Centre as it rises in the city of Winnipeg, formerly the Red River Settlement and birthplace of the Métis Nation.

President Clément Chartier, Métis National Council

The repatriation of our Métis Leader Louis Riel's personal effects are important pieces in building our renewed nation-to-nation and government-to-government relationship with Canada. Our partnership in protecting our Métis past is a great step in reconciliation of our peoples. As the Manitoba Métis and Canada have been recognized as negotiating partners in confederation, it is fitting that this repatriation occurs in the 150th anniversary year of our country's founding. As the Prime Minister has said, Canada is a work in progress. This today is one of its solid foundation stones.

President David Chartrand, Manitoba Métis Federation

I welcome the agreement between the RCMP, the Manitoba Metis Federation and the Métis National Council on the return of the Louis Riel artifacts to the Métis Nation. Louis Riel was a champion of minority rights, a founder of Manitoba, and a key leader who was strongly committed to ensuring the protection of Métis rights. Returning these items is an important step towards reconciliation with the Métis Nation.

The Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs

The Government of Canada recognizes the importance of these artifacts to the Métis people, and they are being returned in the spirit of reconciliation to the Métis National Council. We are committed to renewing our relationship with Métis Nation based on the recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership.

The Honourable Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Quick facts

  • Louis Riel's crucifix was donated to the RCMP in 1959 by the daughter of a Sergeant Major who guarded Riel during his trial. The Sergeant Major allegedly acquired the crucifix shortly before Riel was executed.
  • The hunting knife believed to have been Riel's was donated to the RCMP in 1947 by a university professor and veteran of the Northwest Campaign. It was given to him by a young man who knew of the professor's history. The true origin of the knife has not been fully verified.
  • Riel's published book of poetry, "Poésies Religieuses et Politiques," was gifted to the RCMP in 1943.

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Contact information

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613-843-5999
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Métis National Council & Manitoba Metis Federation – Royal Canadian Mounted Police Memorandum of Understanding On Indigenous Artifacts of Métis Origin

This Memorandum of Understanding is effective as of September 23, 2017

BETWEEN:

The Métis National Council

- and -

The Manitoba Metis Federation

- and -

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police,
as represented by the Deputy Commissioner, Contract and Aboriginal Policing

(hereinafter collectively referred to as the "Parties")

WHEREAS the Royal Canadian Mounted Police ("RCMP") is committed to advancing reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in Canada;

AND WHEREAS the RCMP has documented ownership of certain artifacts once belonging to and/or related to the Métis people;

AND WHEREAS the RCMP recognizes the cultural and historical significance of such artifacts to the Métis people;

AND WHEREAS the RCMP recognizes the right of Indigenous peoples, as expressed in Article 11 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to maintain, protect and develop manifestations of their cultures, including artifacts;

NOW THEREFORE THE PARTIES AGREE AS FOLLOWS:

I. RCMP COMMITMENTS

The RCMP commits:

  1. to repatriating certain artifacts, namely a knife, crucifix and book of poetry, of which it has documented ownership, to the Métis people;
  2. to identifying additional Métis artifacts of which it has documented ownership within its possession at the RCMP Heritage Centre;
  3. to repatriating to the Métis people any such further artifacts which it identifies; and,
  4. to maintaining physical custody of such artifacts until such time as a suitable location is established.

II. MÉTIS NATIONAL COUNCIL and MANITOBA METIS FEDERATION COMMITMENTS

The Métis National Council and Manitoba Metis Federation commit:

  1. to providing the RCMP with such assistance as it may request in identifying additional Métis artifacts of which the RCMP has documented ownership and possession;
  2. to informing the RCMP at such time as they have established a suitable location for the artifacts such that physical custody of the knife, crucifix and book of poetry and any further Métis artifacts identified as described above, may be transferred.

III. FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

To achieve the purposes of this MOU, the RCMP will:

  1. assume any costs internal to the RCMP of identifying any additional Métis artifacts as described above; and,
  2. assume any costs of maintaining physical custody of Métis artifacts as specifically and generally described above in a suitable, climate-controlled facility until such time as the said artifacts are physically transferred.

Signed at the General Assembly of the Manitoba Metis Federation in the City of Winnipeg, Manitoba, on the 23rd day of September, 2017.

David Chartrand
President
Manitoba Metis Federation

Clément Chartier
President
Métis National Council

Kevin Brosseau
Deputy Commissioner
Contract and Aboriginal Policing
Royal Canadian Mounted Police

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