Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Legion Happy Bell of Batoche Is Home with Metis, but Wants Its Medals Returned

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Legion Happy Bell of Batoche Is Home with Metis, but Wants Its Medals Returned

Article excerpt

Ontario legion wants stolen medals back

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MILLBROOK, Ont. - Members of a Royal Canadian Legion branch in Ontario say they don't want to press charges against a Metis man who admitted to stealing the Bell of Batoche over 20 years ago, but they still want returned medals which they say disappeared at the same time.

"The bell is back where it rightfully belongs," said Dan Maebrae, who was the sergeant-at-arms at the Millbrook legion when the bell was stolen in 1991.

"It belongs to the Metis."

The historic bell was originally looted in 1885 from a church in Batoche, Sask., by troops suppressing the Northwest Rebellion led by Louis Riel. It was brought east to the town of Millbrook and was in the community's fire hall for decades before ending up at the legion.

After the theft in 1991, the bell's whereabouts remained a mystery until Billyjoe Delaronde, a Metis man from Manitoba, confessed to taking it and presented it to the bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Prince Albert in Batoche last month.

Maebrae, who recalls drinking with Delaronde and other Metis men at the Millbrook legion before the theft, said three medals were with the bell. Known as the McCorry medals after Millbrook man and former sergeant Fred McCorry, they had been presented to residents who were soldiers in the campaign to suppress the Northwest Rebellion.

Those medals belong in Millbrook, Maebrae said.

"They're part of the legion history. This man was a military man and it's military history. That's what the legion is about."

Nobody admits to having the medals and police do not appear to be investigating the 1991 robbery any longer.

Mounties in red serge were present when Delaronde presented the bell in Batoche, but a spokesman for RCMP in Saskatchewan said that since the case originated in Ontario, it would be up to police there to decide whether they wanted charges to be laid.

The Ontario Provincial Police investigated the original robbery, but charges appear unlikely.

"There is no active investigation," OPP spokesman Craig White said recently.

Robert Winslow is the director of a theatre company in Millbrook and he researched the bell for a play he wrote in 2000. He said the medals were presented to McCorry and members of his family who were all members of the Midland battalion of the Northwest Field Force.

Winslow, who suggested the bell is actually from Frog Lake, Alta., and not Batoche, said McCorry himself was a fiery character who fought off raids conducted by the Fenian brotherhood from the U.S. in 1866. McCorry and his nephews were the soldiers who brought the bell back, Winslow continued, and one of the nephews was a member of the detail that escorted Riel from Batoche to Regina, where the rebellion leader was hanged for treason.

Winslow said there is a newspaper account of McCorry fighting off an attempt by a Conservative MP to retrieve the bell from Millbrook on behalf of a Catholic bishop. …

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