On October 23, 1844, in Red River Manitoba, Louis Riel Sr and Julie Lagimodiere, devout Christians, brought a young Métis boy into the world. Little did they know, Louis Riel Jr. would grow up to become known to many as “the founder of Manitoba.” His life was filled with excitement, both political and personal. The question is, were his actions against the government acts of honor and truth, or deception and lies?
Riel Jr.’s political adventures did not begin until he was 25. On November 23, 1869, Riel proposed the formation of a provincial government to replace the Council of Assiniboia because he did not believe that they were not doing their jobs well enough to improve the dull life in Red River. On December 10th his flag flew on the pole at Fort Gary. Riel held a convention of twenty French and twenty English Canadians to draw up a new list of rights. The convention sat a week and finished on February 10th. Riel soon formed another provincial government that was more represented than the last. Three delegates were chosen from the provincial government to present the list of formed rights to the Canadian government: Father Noël Ritchot, Judge Black and Alfred Scott . On March 24th, the three delegates left for Ottawa to negotiate entry into Confederation and discuss the list of rights. Finally on May 12th, 1870, the list of rights, now known as the “Manitoba Act” , was passed by Canadian parliament. One section protected Métis lands, guaranteed the right to their religion, and the use of their language in the legislature and courts, but it seemed not enough. December 16th 1884, Riel dispatched a petition to Ottawa demanding that settlers be given title to the lands they occupied, that the districts of Saskatchewan, Alberta and Assiniboia be granted provincial status, that laws be passed to encourage nomadic Indians and Métis to settle on the lands and that they be better treated. On February 11th, 1885, the government answered the petition by promising to appoint a commissioner to investigate the Métis claims and titles. First, a lengthy census would be taken of the Métis. Riel, since little had been accomplished, questioned his own leadership qualities. The Métis reaffirmed their vision of Riel as a leader and asked him to continue as their leader.
Not long after these issues were tabled, a ...
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...nment feared him? Whatever the reason, it was wrong. No man can be exiled without a clear, good reason , says the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This Charter was established in 1872. Long before the trial. Riel’s exile is one of the main reason Riel was viewed as a traitor: not good enough for Canada. It appears that Riel’s treacherous deeds were merely a myth, brought upon by the government to stir fear in the heart of Riel followers.
So to answer the question of “truth or treason?” I say truth. Riel began his own provincial government, improving it as time went on; even in a weak moment of question, his people supported him. When battle and political issues drove him from his home, he did it with grace; yet, when he returned he spoke eloquently on the subject. Even during his trial, he spoke with all the dignity and honor of a gentleman and a hero. His death was for his people.
If that does not prove his honor, I do not know what does. Riel’s life and troubles have taught us much. In the future, we must not allow the government to control whom we believe in. We cannot allow another honorable person to die because he or she are seen as a threat.