The province of Manitoba is turning 150 years old — with Tuesday marking the anniversary of the day when the Manitoba Act was passed by the Parliament of Canada and received royal assent.
Under the provisional government of Métis leader Louis Riel, Manitoba joined Confederation as Canada’s fifth province on May 12, 1870.
And although most of the events planned to mark the 150th are cancelled or postponed because of COVID-19, some Manitobans are still finding ways to celebrate.
Here’s how a few prominent Manitobans plan to mark the day, and what they had to say about their home province.
Monique LaCoste is the co-chair of the Manitoba 150 host committee.
Despite major public events being cancelled and postponed this year because of COVID-19, LaCoste said she hopes people can still take a moment to reflect on the province and its history.
She said the committee is still moving ahead with funding for 85 projects across the province, while staff are in the midst of rescheduling performers and artists for the big celebration in 2021.
LaCoste said the decision to postpone until next year has been “a real blessing” because it provides certainty and allows them the space to adequately plan.
LaCoste, who is Métis, was born and raised in Manitoba, with family lines tracing back to Métis leaders like André Beauchemin, who was a part of Riel’s provisional government, and Cuthbert Grant.
“What I love about where we are today as a province, is that we are so we are much more aware of the contributions of the Métis people to the very beginnings of this province of Manitoba,” she said.
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LaCoste said she’s very proud of her family’s history and the history of their resistance and resilience. To celebrate Manitoba’s birthday, she said she has raised the province’s flag at her home and will be providing more information online to others.
“To a degree, this Manitoba 150 celebration is a love letter to the province and everyone [who] has contributed to making it a great place.”
Curler, Olympian and gold medallist Jennifer Jones was born and raised in Winnipeg. Jones won Canada a gold medal at the 2014 Sochi Games, when she was a skip for the Canadian’s women’s team.
Jones said what she loves most about Manitoba is the people.
“The people are just incredible. They’re just the kindest and we all look out for each other. I just don’t know if that’s just the Prairie way, but it seems to be the way growing up,” she said.
She said her favourite place in Manitoba remains her mom’s house in Winnipeg’s Windsor Park neighbourhood.
“The Prairie sunset, the unbelievable restaurants we have, and obviously the beautiful lakes,” she said. “It’s the most calming place to me in the entire world.”
Jones said she’ll be raising a toast to celebrate the province’s birthday.
“I can’t believe it’s been 150 years. We’ll definitely sit back and toast Manitoba for all the things it’s brought into my life,” she said.
“The support of so many Manitobans and fans as we went to the Olympics and fulfilled our curling dreams — they made it that much more special.”
Geraldine ‘Gramma’ Shingoose
Geraldine Shingoose, 62, who is also known as “Gramma” Shingoose, is an Ojibway elder, residential school survivor and grandmother. She has lived in the province for most of her life.
Shingoose said the biggest change she has witnessed is the rise and leadership of Indigenous youth — how they’re raising awareness about Canada’s colonial history.
“They’re leading our people. It’s so fascinating to see,” she said. “I’m so inspired by them.”
Shingoose said what she loves most about the province is the land, from northern communities like Churchill and Thompson to places where she’d take her children fishing to Cree communities that have welcomed her.
“I love the land. I love the lakes. The waters and the resources that we have out there … that’s my love for Manitoba. It’s just so rich and vibrant and beautiful,” she said.
For the province’s birthday, Shingoose said she’s going to celebrate the bright future ahead and the healing that’s happening between non-Indigenous and Indigenous communities — which will include a smudging ceremony she’ll conduct for the family of a missing person.
“We conquered and we overcame and we’re still here, with our residential schools and our murdered and missing Indigenous women.… My heart just goes out to them,” she said.
“I encourage Manitobans to learn about our history, because you’ve got to find those truths … because we can heal together from that past and move forward.”
Manitoba’s own comic and kids’ performer Al Simmons has lived here all his life.
Simmons, who grew up in Winnipeg and now lives in Anola, says there’s nowhere else he’d rather be.
Simmons said when people heard he wanted to be an entertainer, they’d ask him to move to bigger cities, but he just wanted to stay in Manitoba.
“I thought, ‘You know, if I can’t stay in Manitoba then I know I don’t want to be famous. I just want to stay here,” Simmons said.
His favourite part about Manitoba is enjoying its waters at places like Grand Beach, Whiteshell Provincial Park and Hudson’s Bay.
“Of course, memories of Winnipeg are always fond,” he said.
“Growing up and riding my bike around Assiniboine Park on the trails there — they were called monkey trails and I’d ride my bicycle all around that area, Omand’s Creek and that. Fabulous fun!”
Simmons was originally invited to perform for a series of Manitoba 150 events, but those have now been cancelled. He said instead, he will celebrate by heading out to enjoy nature.
“I’ll just go outside and breathe some fresh beautiful Manitoba air and look at our big sky,” said Simmons.
“People from Vancouver or wherever else come to the Prairies and they just marvel at the clouds. It’s just a huge, beautiful sky that’s lovely.”
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