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Manitoba M�tis leader Louis Riel is shown in an undated image. (Glenbow Archives)
Manitoba M�tis leader Louis Riel is shown in an undated image. (Glenbow Archives)

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Correcting the record on Louis Riel and separatist coalitions Add to ...

1. Hero of villain? Louis Riel, the Manitoba Métis leader, was hanged for high treason 125 years ago today and Winnipeg NDP MP Pat Martin wants Parliament to reverse the politician's conviction.

Not only that, he wants a statue of Riel on the grounds of Parliament Hill alongside the bronze images of former prime ministers and the Queen.

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The MP is holding a press conference Tuesday morning to outline the demands in his private member's bill, An Act Respecting Louis Riel.

"In the same spirit of reconciliation that [Prime Minister Stephen]Harper apologized to the survivors of the residential schools we think it's timely and fitting to correct the history books and admit that Louis Riel was a hero and not a traitor," Mr. Martin told The Globe.

His bill to honour the controversial Manitoban, who has been referred to as both a traitor and a Father of Confederation, has not come to the House of Commons yet; it is still in the hopper. Quebec MP and deputy NDP leader Thomas Mulcair will outline it with Mr. Martin.

The Winnipeg MP is not the first who has tried to put forward legislation to change or correct Riel's legacy. There have been numerous private member's bills from MPs on all sides of the House, dating back decades.

Mr. Martin argues his bill is different than previous efforts, which have called for Riel to be pardoned. He says a pardon is the prerogative of the Governor-General and the Queen. "But Parliament as the highest court in the land can actually reverse the conviction."

He believes he can win this one. Mr. Martin said he has the support of Bloc MPs and also from some Tories and Liberals.

So rather than waiting for his bill to come forward, he is calling on the Prime Minister to bring forward a motion that the House will then vote on. "We don't want try and change history we want to correct the history books," he said.

2. Coalitions of all stripes. Politics can make strange bedfellows - and minority governments, bent on survival, only feed that theory.

Lately, Canadians have seen the unlikely coalition of Michael Ignatieff's Liberals and Stephen Harper's Conservatives in favour of keeping soldiers in Afghanistan past 2011. The Liberal Leader and his foreign affairs critic, Bob Rae, agree with the Prime Minister that no vote is needed in the Commons to keep troops in the war-torn country in a training capacity.

But an even stranger union is a potential pact between the Conservatives and the separatist Bloc Québécois. There are reports they are snuggling up over federal funding for an NHL-calibre arena in Quebec City.

A story in the weekly Hill Times newspaper Monday was full of speculation that the Bloc would support various pieces of government legislation in return for the arena cash. The separatist support would ensure the government's survival at least through the spring, when the Tories are expected to table a budget that could form the basis of an election campaign.

Conservative strategists, however, are vigorously dismissing the speculation. "A Hill Times article suggests that the government has entered into an agreement with the Bloc Quebecois on Arena funding," says a memo to MPs and party supporters circulated Monday. "This is completely false."

The Tories say "our government believes [professional sports facilities]are first and foremost the responsibility of the private sector" And of course: "Unlike the Liberals and NDP, the Conservative Party will never enter into a coalition with a party that aims to destroy the Canadian federation."

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