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Louis Riel

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There were many occasions in history wherein the French and English Canadians have clashed but the first major historical event to tear the relationship into pieces was the Northwest Rebellion. The French Canadians regarded the Northwest Rebellion a noble cause and Louis Riel a hero who stood up to protect the rights of the French-speaking Métis. The English saw the rebellion as a threat to Canada's sovereignty and Riel as a traitor.

Louis Riel had taken up residence in the United States after the Red River Rebellion. A delegation traveled to Montana to enlist Riel's help once again to stop the Canadian government from encroaching on Métis land. Riel returned to Canada with the delegation and drew up a petition of grievances that had the support of both English and French speaking Métis as well as the immigrant settlers of the area. The petition was sent to the federal government calling for improved political representation, modification of the homesteading laws, and a land grant for the Métis among the seventeen items called for. Riel and his followers believed themselves to not being taken seriously by the Canadian government so he set up the first provisional government in the Northwest. Riel's earlier religious training was affecting his way of looking at his situation and he began fighting against the church and calling for war against the Canadian government. He proclaimed himself, "Prophet of the New World" and claimed his authority came directly from God (Stanley 302). Riel's provisional government was beginning to lose its original support and even the French-speaking Métis began to question his intentions. He hurriedly restored the unity with the treason trial of Charles Nolin and ...

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...e real problem was "French Canadians' unwillingness to accept the death penalty for a French-speaking Catholic" (Flanagan 84). The protests against Riel's execution were not confined to newspapers. In Quebec, thousands of people voiced their disapproval at rallies, the biggest one led by Honore Mercier. To protest Riel's execution, a new provincial party, the Parti National was formed in Quebec with Mercier as its leader. The newly formed party won the next provincial election beginning the decline of the conservative party.

The controversy surrounding the trial and execution of Louis Riel has been debated throughout Canadian history with the French-speaking Canadians firmly planted against the English. Today, the government has recognized Riel as the legitimate leader of the Métis people. He is now regarded as a hero for representing the Métis.