M©tis Leader Not Clapping about Bell
Wazny, Adam, Winnipeg Free Press
'Thief' is trying to profit from it
Years of mistrust surrounding the Bell of Batoche have left the mysterious piece of Canadian history tarnished, says the head of the Manitoba Metis Federation.
MMF president David Chartrand was less than impressed with the news the famous silver bell is about to be unveiled later this summer. It was stolen from the M©tis settlement of Batoche, Sask., by Canadian troops following the final battle of the Northwest Rebellion in 1885 and lifted once again from a Royal Canadian Legion hall in Millbrook, Ont., in 1991, only to be out of sight for the next 22 years.
Union Nationale M©tisse Saint-Joseph du Manitoba (UNMSJM) has scheduled a Friday press conference to reveal details of the bell. Details of the announcement remain scarce, but it's believed the organization has assumed informal custody of the artifact and it will be a part of a parish mass next month at Saint Antoine-de-Padoue, the Catholic church in Batoche from which it was stolen in 1885.
"We've got an announcement prepared as to the bell, what's going to happen to it and where it's going to go," said UNMSJM elder Guy Savoie, who added the group has been negotiating with the bell's keeper for a long time. "He's disposed to return the bell, and this is what the announcement is."
It stands to be an important moment for the M©tis community: a piece of history taken at an important time in Canada's past, now returned to its place of origin. But for Chartrand, the bell represents little, due to his attempt to secure it after it mysteriously disappeared from the Millbrook legion.
"The people who have had it all this time are a bunch of thieves," Chartrand said, adding he knows who has held the bell for the last 22 years but cannot identify the person for fear of legal repercussions.
"It should have been handed over as soon as they had it. Any historic connection to the bell... they've robbed us of that, they've tarnished that. To me, the bell has really lost its lustre."
Chartrand said he was in talks with the bell's keeper for the last 15 years, trying to settle on a deal that would be fair for all parties involved. …