Louis Riel: Hero or Villain?

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Louis Riel was one of the most controversial figures in Canadian history, and even to this day – more than a century after his execution – he continues to be remembered. Many believed him to be a villain; others saw him as a hero. So who was he really? Born in St. Boniface at the Red River Settlement of Canada (present-day Winnipeg, Manitoba) on October 22, 1844, Louis Riel hoped one day to follow his father’s footsteps and become a great Métis leader just like him. Eventually, Riel was seen as a hero to the French-speaking Métis. In the Canadian West, however, most people regarded him as a villain due to his execution in 1885. Nevertheless, Louis Riel was not really a villain by heart; only a flawed man who made many mistakes in his life. Today many more people are seeing him as a visionary, and recognizing the numerous contributions that he made to building Canada up as a nation. He was indubitably a Canadian hero, mainly due to his involvement with the Métis, confederating Manitoba with Canada, and approaching problems peacefully.

Many people saw Louis Riel as a hero because of his passion about preserving the Métis rights and culture. Riel was a great Métis leader because he risked his own life just to improve the Métis’ lives. His heroism began when he returned home to Red River in 1868 after his studies, and discovered that the settlement was alarmed by arrangements to transfer territorial rights from the Hudson’s Bay Company to the Dominion of Canada. This was because the Hudson’s Bay Company resigned its control of the Northwest, and sold Rupert’s Land to Canada. This caused the Métis (people of mixed Aboriginal and European heritage) to fear that they would lose control of their homeland and traditional rights. They we...

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...attles. It eventually ended when Louis Riel surrendered on May 15 1885, after the defeat at Batoche. Riel had written a letter to General Frederick Middleton (British general), saying that he didn’t like war and he’d surrender himself only if the Métis were freed. After the rebellion ended, Riel became a prisoner of the Canadian government and was taken to trial for treason in Regina. He was eventually convicted and executed as a traitor. And so lived and died the heroic, peaceful founder of the Province of Manitoba, and defender of the rights of the Métis.

To sum up, Louis Riel was without doubt, a hero. In spite of the mistakes he made, and things he did that might have upset the Canadian government, all of his actions have contributed to Canada’s growth as a nation. He was one of the most important figures in Canadian history, and indeed a true Canadian hero.

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