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Riel Wouldn’t Leave …

06 Feb
Louis Riel speaking at his trial

Louis Riel speaking at his trial (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Louis Riel would have been a hero in Canada had he not killed Thomas Scott, a federal employee who had been sent to Manitoba during the Metis uprising in 1870. The gruesome execution caused religious and political strife, as Scott was an Orangeman and Riel was a Roman Catholic.

Edward Blake, then Premier of Ontario, offered a reward of $5,000 for Riel’s capture.

Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald was caught in the crossfire of the controversy. Riel was a hero among French-speaking Canadians, but he was looked upon with hatred by English-speaking Canadians. Sir John had to try to satisfy both sides. Through Bishop Tache at Fort Garry, he privately sent Riel $1,000 but he demanded more. On February 6, 1872, Governor Archibald of Manitoba got Donald A. Smith to put up $3,000 so that Riel and his comrade, Lepine, would leave the country. Once again, Riel took the money, but failed to leave.

In August of 1872, Riel was nominated as the candidate for Provencher (Manitoba) in a federal election. Sir George Etienne Cartier was defeated in Montreal in that election, so Sir John A. Macdonald asked Governor Archibald to find a safe seat for him in Winnipeg. Elections in those days did not take place on the same day all over the country, but were spread over several weeks. Riel and his opponent in Provencher were asked to withdraw, which they did, and Cartier was elected in their place.

Cartier’s death soon afterwards necessitated a by-election in Provencher. Although a fugitive from justice, Riel was elected by acclamation. He thought that the government would grant him an amnesty because he had withdrawn in favour of Cartier. This did not happen, so he was unable to take his seat in Ottawa.

Following the C.P.R. scandal, there was another general election in 1874, and Riel was elected again. He went to Ottawa and signed the register of members, but found days later that he was expelled from the House before he had taken his seat. A bill banishing Riel was enforced, and as a result, he lived in Montana until 1884. Then he was persuaded to return to Canada and lead the second serious rebellion on the prairies, which prompted his capture and hanging.

Everything Riel is complicated.  This post is but a minute of his lifetime.  Luckly, there are many places on the internet to learn more.  A good place to start would be Wikipedia, Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online, CBC Archives, Historica Dominion Institute. After this, I suggest a simple Google.ca search!

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9 responses to “Riel Wouldn’t Leave …

  1. Cotton Boll Conspiracy

    February 6, 2013 at 4:39 pm

    I’m curious about the comment that without Riel Manitoba wouldn’t have entered Confederation. Is there a simple explanation, or should I go searching on the Internet and in a library?

     
    • tkmorin

      February 6, 2013 at 5:12 pm

      “Led by a passionate and articulate leader, Louis Riel, they seized Fort Garry, set up a provisional government and managed to persuade Sir John A. Macdonald to agree to a List of Rights which they hoped would protect their lands and traditions just as the Quebec Act had created constitutional protections for the French-Canadian culture. The result was the Manitoba Act of 1870 which added a fifth province to the Canadian federation.” – text completely from: http://www.canadahistoryproject.ca/1870/index.html
      Does this help?

       
      • Cotton Boll Conspiracy

        February 6, 2013 at 5:14 pm

        Very much so. Thank you. I have definitely learned something new and interesting today.

         
  2. afterthekidsleave

    February 6, 2013 at 9:40 am

    Riel was indeed a complex character. But without him, Manitoba wouldn’t have entered Confederation. Thanks for this.

     
    • tkmorin

      February 6, 2013 at 9:42 am

      Yes, that is one of the good things because of him … Thanks for the comment! 🙂

       

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