Future of Home Is a Riel Puzzle
Rabson, Mia, Winnipeg Free Press
Skepticism greets word Riel House to stay open, but with half the cash
OTTAWA -- The federal government is insisting Riel House will stay open, even though questions remain unanswered about what programming will exist at the historic site.
Just 48 hours after it was reported Parks Canada decided to terminate its contract with the St. Boniface Historical Society and close Riel House, Canada's environment minister, Peter Kent, said Tuesday the doors to the home where Louis Riel lay in state after he was hanged will stay open.
In question period in the House of Commons on Tuesday, Kent said the museum will stay open -- just not with guided tours.
"Riel House National Historic Site is not closing," said Kent, who was on the defensive under questioning from NDP MP Pat Martin and Liberal Denis Coderre.
"Visitors will still be able to enjoy self-guided tours, as they can at all of Canada's less-visited historic sites. The house will remain open."
David Chartrand, president of the Manitoba Metis Federation, said this is the right thing to do.
"We're very pleased," said Chartrand. "This was done by bureaucracy, a purely financial decision, without consideration for the historical importance (of Riel House). Politicians stepped in, recognizing what this means to Manitoba and the rest of Canada. He is recognized as a father of Confederation.
"Prime Minister Harper has, in the past, shown personal compassion for Riel as a leader, a strong figure. I'm sure he played a role (in keeping Riel House open)."
The St. Boniface Historical Society was informed three weeks ago its $56,000 annual contract with Parks Canada to provide guided tours of Riel House National Historic Site would not be renewed in 2013.
Society president Michel Lagace said without that, there will be no more guided tours and he can't see how the house will stay open.
"We have no idea what their plans are. We know after the September long weekend we will close the door and give the keys to Parks Canada. It's their house."
St. Boniface MP Shelly Glover said the government is consulting with interested groups in Manitoba about the future of Riel House, including how the self-guided tours will be supported. …