Derelict monument to Louis Riel is restored
A rededication ceremony is taking place Thursday in St. Vital’s Riel Park for a long-forgotten monument that honours the park’s namesake.
A concrete Louis Riel monument that was placed in the park in 1979 had, until recently, been unrecognizable to the community and was being used as a notice board by local skate boarders.
“It was never quite finished and then it was forgotten,” said Coun. Brian Mayes. “The irony was that it had been in plain view for decades but no one ever followed up on it.”
Mayes (St. Vital) said he literally stumbled across the large monument when he attended an event to promote the park’s skateboard park.
“So, I’m standing at the skate boarding park and I say to someone ‘what the hell is that thing?’ I had to get down on my hands and knees to find the plaque at the bottom that says it had been dedicated by the Manitoba Metis Federation in 1979.
“It turns out that it was this grand thing that went in in 1979 and then was just completely forgotten about. All the lettering had come off and it was being used as a notice board by the skateboarders.”
Mayes said he believed the monument to the man recognized as the Father of Manitoba deserved a better fate.
The monument is made of three-inch-thick (7.6 cm) concrete, six feet (1.8 metres) in height and almost five feet (1.5 metres) wide at the base. The image, by sculptor Randall Ranville, is of two doves in embrace, which Mayes said is meant to reflect two cultures embracing each other.
The concrete memorial originally featured white painting on cement with gold lettering stating “Louis Riel Memorial Park”. Over time, the paint has mostly peeled away and the lettering has disappeared.
The cost of the monument and placing it at the arena was originally covered by the Manitoba Metis Federation. According to archived material provided by Mayes, the MMF was completing a commitment originally undertaken by the L’Union Nationale Metisse Saint-Joseph, which had an agreement with the former City of St. Vital in 1965 to place a monument at the park.
Mayes said he authorized $10,000 from the community committee land dedication fund to cover the cost of cleaning up and restoring the monument, which was work done by civic staff in consultation with Ranville.
The cost also covered moving the monument to a new location nearby, and clearing the site and providing a couple of benches.
The rededication ceremony begins at 11 a.m. Thursday.
“This history is important to the city of Winnipeg and to the area of St. Vital,” Mayes said. “People think of St Vital as a new, residential suburb, but there is actually a lot of history, particularly history related to the Riel family.”