Long-planned Métis National Heritage Centre in Winnipeg gets $5M boost

By | July 12, 2019

A first-of-its-kind Métis National Heritage Centre — in the works for nearly 15 years — is getting a multimillion-dollar lift from the federal government.

Carolyn Bennett, minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, is scheduled to announce more than $5 million in funding on Friday for the construction of the Winnipeg-based centre.

The facility, which will showcase the contributions of Métis people to the development of Canada, is key to advancing reconciliation, a news release about the funding announcement states.

It doesn’t say where in the city the centre will be built.

“The first-of-its-kind in Canada, the Métis National Heritage Centre will provide members of the Métis nation with an opportunity to tell their story,” the news release states.

“It will provide Canadians with an opportunity to learn about the heritage, language, culture, methods of governance, and contributions of the Métis nation before, during, and after Confederation.”

The heritage centre has been talked about for nearly 15 years, since the completion of a feasibility study and business plan in 2005. It was estimated at that time the 40,000-square-foot facility would cost a minimum of $20 million to build.

The hope at that time was to start construction by 2008 and locate it in Bonnycastle Park, near the corner of Assiniboine Avenue and Main Street.

At the time, however, city officials said they had not been approached about using the land at Bonnycastle Park.

Little was heard again about the heritage centre until 2015, when the Manitoba Metis Federation again announced funding from the federal government  and identified Upper Fort Garry Provincial Park — across Assiniboine from Bonnycastle Park — as the spot the centre would be built.

The centre was described at that time as a place where the history of the Métis nation and their significant role in the development of Canada would be presented through exhibitions, workshops, presentations and community gatherings.

In 2017, the federal government and RCMP agreed to return a series of artifacts connected to Métis leader Louis Riel — his crucifix, knife and a book of poetry — to the Métis people in 2018, when it believed the heritage centre would finally be opened.