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Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Most Controversial Figure In Canadian History Is…

Louis Riel – at least according to most historians who have studied the history of Canada.  While the name Louis Riel will instantly ring a bell with almost 100% of Canadian readers I’m not sure that many, if any, Americans will have ever heard Louis Rielof this man.  Although for varied and different reasons the name Louis Riel is as known to Canadians as Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone are to Americans.

On November 16, 1885 at the Northwest Mounted Police(RCMP) barracks in Regina, SK., Louis Riel was hanged for treason. 

Thus ended a life and career full of turmoil that saw him start out as a teacher before moving onto a career as a politician where he helped negotiate the founding of the province of Manitoba.  He was eventually exiled to the USA for 5 years before returning to lead a rebellion of Métis peoples before being arrested, tried for treason and hanged.

  The trial of Louis Rielriel 2

Louis Riel was born in 1844 in the Red River Settlement in what is now Winnipeg.  A promising student, he was sent to Montreal to train for the priesthood, but he left following the death of his father. Ambitious, well educated and bilingual, Riel quickly emerged as a leader among the Métis of the Red River. The Métis are an ethnic group of mixed Cree, Ojibwa, Saulteaux, French Canadian, Scottish, and English descent who felt they were discriminated against by federal authorities.

riel 5

In 1869-1870 Riel led a rebellion that led to the Métis establishing a provisional government with him as its head.  Riel led a delegation that would eventually  negotiate the Manitoba Act with the Canadian government. The Act established Manitoba as a province and provided some protection for French language rights and for Riel, what he thought was indemnity against prosecution for him and his followers as a result of the rebellion. 

Louis Riel and the members of his Provisional GovernmentProvisionalMetisGovernment

During the rebellion a decision made by Riel would come back to haunt him.  He approved the execution of one Thomas Scott a hot-headed Orangeman with a profound contempt for all mixed-bloods, Scott thought that the Métis were cowards and he participated in a plot to overthrow Riel and the provisional government.  Scott was arrested then released.  He was re-arrested after continuing to cause trouble, tried by court-martial and executed by firing squad.

RCMP paying respects at Riel gravesite in Winnipeg, Manitobariel 7

Riel's decision to execute Thomas Scott, enraged anti-Catholic and anti-French sentiment in Ontario. Although chosen for a seat in the House of Commons on three occasions, he was unable to take his seat in the house. In 1875, Riel's role in the death of Scott resulted in his exile from Canada. These years were very hard on Riel and he eventually ended up with 2 stays in insane asylums.  He apparently felt he now had a ‘religious mission’ to lead the Métis of Canada.

 Statue of Louis Riel behind Manitoba Legislative Buildings in Winnipegriel 3

In 1884, after regaining his health, while teaching in Montana at a Jesuit mission, Riel was asked by a delegation from the community of Métis from the south branch of the Saskatchewan River to present their grievances to the Canadian government. Despite Riel's assistance, the federal government ignored Métis concerns. By March of 1885, Métis patience was exhausted and a provisional government was declared.


The provisional government declaration was fought by the Canadian Federal Government who sent troops to quash this new Riel Rebellion.  Riel and his forces were eventually cornered in Batoche, Saskatchewan on May 15, 1885 where Riel peacefully surrendered to officers of the NWMP.  He was then taken to the NWMP barracks in Regina where he was tried, convicted and hanged on November 16, 1885. 

Unity Flag of the Métis Nationsmetis

What made me think of Louis Riel and writing this post was a story I happened to see in our local paper yesterday stating the embossed Unity Flag of the Métis Nations will fly in Victoria and across all municipalities in British Columbia in memory of Louis Riel.  The third Monday of February is an annual general holiday in the Canadian province of Manitoba to commemorate the life of Louis Riel,  Was Riel a traitor and guilty of treason or a hero?  The debate continues to this day.


Thanks to everyone who left suggestions about dentists in Algodones and your own personal experience with them.  I really appreciate it.

I’m hoping though that I’ll never have to follow through and go to the dentist while we’re visiting in Palm Springs this winter.  If I do it’ll only be due to an emergency.

If everything goes well I’ll follow up with my own dentist here in Cowichan Bay when we return home in mid-April.

Have a great Saturday, and thanks again for visiting!