It seems the best way to celebrate Manitoba is to leave it.

Hundreds of people were lined up at the Canada-U.S. border Friday near Pembina, trying to get a head start on some cross-border shopping during Manitoba's newest holiday weekend.

Monday, Feb. 18 will mark Manitoba's first Louis Riel Day, created last year by the provincial government.

And many here are honouring the Father of Manitoba by heading south of the border to cash-in on a strong Canadian dollar.

North Dakota hotels are booked solid, and businesses there were reporting jumps in sales as early as Friday morning.

Louis Riel is considered the Father of Manitoba. He negotiated the terms under which Manitoba entered Canadian Confederation; but he was ultimately found guilty of treason after the North-West rebellion in 1885, and he was hanged.

The debate still rages today as to whether Riel was a Father of Confederation, or a traitor.

So now the same can be asked of cross-border shoppers: Are they traitors?

"It would be great to see Manitobans supporting local business," said Janine Halbesma of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. "Everybody loves the idea of a day off, but what we found is that its business owners who are footing the bill. Government gets the glory, and business gets the bill."

The CFIB said its members will and already have suffered lost sales and production.

So far it seems the only local businesses cashing in are the ones selling supplies for road trips.

But we may have to give those deal-seekers a break. Riel himself sought haven in the United States. After negotiating the Manitoba Act in 1870, Riel was forced south of the border in fear of his life after the execution of Thomas Scott. He married in 1881 while in exile in Montana, and fathered three children. He became a naturalized American citizen and was actively involved in the Republican Party.

Monday is the first Louis Riel Day, and some people may not know what's open or closed, so we've put together a list for you.

  • Canada Post will operate regular hours, mail and parcel delivery will continue as normal, and most retail outlets should be open as well.
  • The Passport Office is open regular business hours.
  • Most stores and malls are open for reduced Sunday hours (noon - 6 p.m.)
  • All provincial and city government offices will be closed.
  • There will be no garbage or recycling pickup. Tuesday is garbage day 4.
  • And Winnipeg Transit will be operating on a Sunday schedule.
  • All libraries, leisure centres, and swimming pools will be closed -- except for the Pan Am pool (open 11 a.m. - 4 p.m.).