I have not published a post for several days. I was diagnosed with pericarditis earlier in the month of October and got better after taking anti-inflammatory medication. However, the diagnostic was not entirely correct. The pain came back. I therefore returned to the Emergency Room. The muscles of my rib cage and part of my left arm are inflamed. I can barely use my left arm. Doctors performed an electrocardiogram today. My heart is fine, but the inflammation is very real.
Confederation played itself out around Winnipeg (the Earl of Selkirk’s Red River Colony). Louis Riel formed a government and intended for Manitoba to remain bilingual and multicultural. His government condemned to death a violent young man, Thomas Scott, an Orangeman, from Ontario. Louis Riel’s government would not be recognized. So, the execution of Thomas Scott would cost Riel his life. As for the Métis of Manitoba, many had moved west to Saskatchewan hoping they could build lots on each side of a river. Gabriel Dumont had moved west, but he and other Métis could not settle along a river. Dumont went to see Louis Riel, who then lived in the United States. He sought his help. Dumont did not know Riel.
Louis Riel’s view of Canada is not unlike to John Ralston Saul. Saul does not ignore John A. Macdonald, the main father of Confederation, but Canada was not born in 1867, when Confederation was signed. It was the product of the “Great Ministry” and that of a unified country longing for a responsible government, which it was granted in 1848.
John A. Macdonald sent Amerindians to reserves and their children to Residential Schools where many were molested and died. As for French-speaking Canadians, after Confederation, they could not be educated in their mother tongue outside Quebec. John A. Macdonald attempted to assimilate both Amerindians and French-speaking Canadians.
At the time of Confederation, the Red River Colony was bilingual and multicultural. It was a miniature portrait of what Canada could have been and became, officially, after the Official Languages Act of 1969. The Red River Colony, or Fort Garry, the future Winnipeg, had been bought from the Hudson’s Bay Company by the Earl of Selkirk, Thomas Douglas 5th Earl of Selkirk. It was not part of Rupert’s Land. When Confederation was signed, half the people of Manitoba were francophones and the other half, anglophones. However, one hundred and two years after Canadian Confederation (1867), most Canadians living west of Quebec spoke English only. Fortunately, there are realities of the mind that override a seemingly more verifiable “reality.” There have been extraordinary Canadians. They shaped Canada.
But Canada started earlier than Canadian Confederation. It started during the “great ministry” of Baldwin and LaFontaine and may have started earlier. In other words, there were extraordinary Canadians who took Canada forward despite colonialism and/or imperialism, and Confederation. French Canadian nationalism dates back to the early 1800s and it had English-speaking supporters. The Rebellions of 1837-1838 occurred in both Upper Canada and Lower Canada.
Although it is quite long and somewhat repetitive, I am publishing this post. In Confédération, Le Vent du Nord ensemble tells that French-speaking Canada was created three times. 1) New France was defeated. 2) Patriots were exiled after the Rebellions of 1837-1838. 3) Confederation isolated Quebec. However, it is difficult to say to what extent being confined to a single province harmed French-speaking Canadians. What I know for certain is that English-speaking and French-speaking Canadians are two compatible populations.
On 1st July 1867, four provinces of Canada federated: Ontario, Québec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. These provinces were suffering attacks by the Fenians, an Irish brotherhood whose mission was to free Ireland. Fenians lived in the United States, but some lived in Canada. Moreover, the United States purchased Alaska on 30 March 1867, three months before Confederation. Canadians feared annexation which led to the purchase of Rupert’s Land from the Hudson’s Bay Company and a motivation to bring British Columbia into Confederation. On 20 July 1871, after being promised a transcontinental railroad, British Columbia entered Confederation. Canada would stretch from sea to sea. (See Maps of Canada.)
Lord Durham expected that, in a Province of Canada, English-speaking Canadians would soon outnumber and absorb the French-speaking minority. The Act of Union was passed in Britain in July 1840 and in Canada on 10th February 1841, but it was followed by the “Great Ministry” In 1848, Canada obtained the responsible government it sought in 1837-1838.
Lord Durham also recommended that the language of the Assembly be English. The languages of the Assembly would remain French and English. When Louis-Hippolyte La Fontaine, the first Prime Minister of the Province of Canada, addressed the Assembly, he spoke French shortly and then switched to English. He set a precedent.
The Terms of Confederation
Confederation marginalized Quebec. Under the terms of Confederation, the British North America Act, 1867, the children of French-speaking families could not be educated in French outside Quebec. In public schools, the language of instruction was English. The assimilation of French-speaking Canadians had been Lord Durham’s intent when he proposed a united Canada, the Province of Canada. So, as immigrants arrived in Canada, their children attended English-language schools. John A Macdonald (10 or 11 January 1815 – 6 June 1891) was an Orangeman and the Orange Order was anti-French and anti-Catholic. (See Orange Order, The Canadian Encylopedia.)
By 1864, the ‘great ministry’ seemed a memory. It was replaced by the great coalition of Canada, the government that would usher in Confederation. George-Étienne Cartier, the premier of Canada East, had good reasons to lead Quebec into Confederation. Confederation offered a secure environment, but Quebec would not be an equal partner. Outside Quebec, the children of French-speaking Canadians would be educated in English, unless they attended private schools, which was another problematic. So, bilingualism and biculturalism played itself out as la question des écoles, the school question, i. e. publicly funded French-language schools outside Quebec. Therefore, John A Macdonald was Prime Minister of Canada after Canadian Confederation, a Confederation that was not bilingual and bicultural, except in Quebec.
Upper and Lower Canada were seeking responsible government, or self-government, but French-speaking Canadians remember the Rebellions as a conflict between English-speaking Canadians and French-speaking Canadians, which it was not. Men were hanged or exiled, and victims were more numerous in Lower Canada than Upper Canada. So, French-speaking Quebecers were sadder. They had lost their motherland, and many were now sent to penal colonies. By and large, they accepted Confederation, but what role could they play? Sir Wilfrid Laurier (1811-1919), the seventh Prime Minister of Canada, opposed Confederation:
Like the Liberals of Lower Canada, Laurier opposed Confederation, arguing both that the federal government would have too much power, and that French Canadians would be overwhelmed.
John A. Macdonald, who remains a father of Confederation, was a member of the Orange Order, which was anti-French and anti-Catholic. Consequently, Confederation excluded Quebec, but Confederation was a fait accompli.
He also decided, like many other Liberals, to accept Confederation as a fait accompli and to work within the new system. In 1874, he resigned his provincial seat and ran for election to the House of Commons of Canada.
Federalist Québécois could not undo the Conquest, nor could they walk back the hurried arrival of United Empire Loyalists. But they could bring to confederation the liberalism of Quebec’s Institut canadien. At the time of Confederation, Orangemen arrived at the Red River bearing arms and demanding their due, which caused the Red River Rebellion. This time, the conflict did oppose English-speaking settlers and the people whose land they were taking: French-speaking and English-speaking Métis, Amerindians, and other inhabitants of the Red River Colony.
At first, a radical, Wilfrid Laurier adopted moderate liberalism, but he served in Quebec before being elected to the House of Commons where French-speaking and federalist Canadians could play a vital role. In 1861, Laurier was elected to Quebec’s Assembléenationale, the member from Drummond-Arthabaska. But, in 1874, he resigned from his position and ran for office at the federal level. Quebec could play a role in Confederation in the House of Commons. What Sir Wilfrid Laurier would take to Ottawa were his liberalism and his wish to promote national unity. Sir Wilfrid Laurier was elected to the House of Commons in 1874 and lived in Ottawa for an uninterrupted 45 years. (See Sir Wilfrid Laurier, The Canadian Encyclopedia.) Born in St-Lin, Quebec (1911), he died in Ottawa in 1919. I am inserting a video of his state funeral. He had always been frail, chronic bronchitis, but he died of a heart attack.
Sir Wilfrid Laurier was alarmed when Manitoba abolished the dual school system Louis Riel advocated as a right. Canada was as John A. Macdonald’s Conservative-Liberal government wanted it: an Orangist and English-language country, or a Church-and-State government, resembling ultramontanisme. Yet, Laurier signed the Laurier-Greenway Agreement. His ability to find and accept compromises characterizes the Laurier years, as a member of Parliament, Prime Minister, and Leader of the Opposition. So, although he may appear a traitor to Louis Riel and to Canadian minorities, could Laurier fully support Louis Riel during his first year as Prime Minister of Canada?
In 1905, Sir Wilfrid negotiated the entry into Confederation of two western provinces: Saskatchewan and Alberta. In fact, during the Laurier years, Canada welcomed two million inhabitants. They spoke in many tongues and practiced different religions. Could the Laurier-Greenway Agreement be merely temporary? Despite his own convictions and respect for Louis Riel, Sir Wilfrid Laurier honoured the Laurier-Greenway Agreement.
I am branded in Québec as a traitor to the French, and in Ontario as a traitor to the English. In Québec I am branded as a jingo, and in Ontario as a separatist.… I am neither. I am a Canadian. Canada has been the inspiration of my life. I have had before me as a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of cloud by day a policy of true Canadianism, of moderation, of conciliation.
Sir Wilfrid Laurier made mistakes, as did other Canadian leaders, but he remains one of Canada’s “monarchs.” He took Quebec to the House of Commons, where Quebec would have a voice and contribute leaders to Canada.
Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation
Above is a picture of Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. Mr Adam claims he was the victim of police brutality, which is unacceptable. However, although they may be the very devil, I would hesitate to put The Royal Canadian Mounted Police on trial. In my life, they have done what the police is supposed to do: to protect and to serve.
In fact, the killing of George Floyd has led to accusations, resignations, dismissals, or a form of revisionism. Some of these are convincingly justifiable, others, less so. There can be no doubt that there are rotten apples in nearly every basket, but although racism is a serious problem in the United States, I could not extend the term “racist” to every American. Too many Americans oppose racism for me to generalize. Moreover, Barack Obama, an African-American, was elected to the Presidency of the United States and proved one of its finest presidents.
I nevertheless researched the topic of Aboriginals in Canada and Blacks in Canada. However, this post is about the indigenous people of Canada. It cannot go further. It is about Amerindians after Confederation and the “purchase” of Rupert’s Land from the Hudson’s Bay Company, chartered in 1670. In Wikipedia’s relevant entry, by virtue of the Royal Charter, Rupert’s Land, which was bought by the first four confederated provinces of the future Canada, could not include territory already settled and inhabited by the indigenous people of North America.
Therefore, it appears that, by virtue of the Royal Charter of 1670, the “purchase” of Rupert’s Land by the first confederated provinces precluded settling land that was settled by the indigenous people of North America.
For that matter, could the first four provinces of the Canadian Confederation resettle the Red River Colony? The Red River Colony was established by the Earl of Selkirk who purchased and settled the Colony to give a home to dispossessed Scottish crofters (See Crofting, Wikipedia). However, the Red River Colony was soon home to retired voyageurs, and to several members of the disbanded Régiment de Meuron and De Watteville Régiment. These were Swiss mercenaries and veterans of the War of 1812. The Red River Colony was multicultural and bilingual. It was also home to English-speaking Métis and French-speaking Métis. It was Louis Riel’s Canada, officially bilingual and bicultural, and eventually described as multicultural. But it wasn’t so until the Official Languages’ Act was passed, in 1969. The Red River Colony was bought and settled land.
There are times when “officials” act too quickly, but under the Royal Charter, could the Red River Colony be part of Rupert’s Land? This is questionable. Yet, after the purchase of Rupert’s Land, descendants of United Empire Loyalists rushed west to get land. But it was not a Wild West.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police was established in 1873 and was first named the North West Mounted Rifles and renamed the North-West Mounted Police. Although Quebec and Ontario have their own provincial police corps, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police is Canada’s national police force, so, as soon as it was appointed, settling west in Canada was policed. But, in a policed Canada Amerindians were nevertheless sent to reservations and French-speaking Canadians had to live in the Province of Quebec because of the Orange Order. Sir John A. MacDonald and three other Prime Ministers of Canada were members of the Orange Order.
In an earlier article, I quoted the Canadian Encyclopedia:
Its members generally viewed Roman Catholics and French Canadians as politically disloyal or culturally inferior.
(See Orange Order in Canada, The Canadian Encyclopedia.)
I will close by stating, once again, that the purchase of Rupert’s Land was not consistent with the Royal Charter. Officials may not have read the details or may have reached an agreement that ignored the Royal Charter. Land was taken that belonged to Amerindians. They were not given a word to say, nor were the Métis. As for the use of French outside Quebec, the Orange Order (Wikipedia), Orange order (The Canadian Encyclopedia) would not allow it. They had no tolerance for the French and despised Catholics. Four Prime Ministers of Canada were Orangemen. Louis Riel’s Canada was born in 1969, when the Official Languages Act was passed, but Amerindians have lived on reservations, and I wonder whether this arrangement was the best. Confederation was followed by sending children to Residential Schools. Canada’s aboriginals were compensated for the harm inflicted on children who attended these schools.
During the years I taught at Saint Francis Xavier University, a young woman came to talk to me. She was taking a course I taught. She told me she was Amerindian and that she would therefore pass the course. I could not understand what she wanted. In the end, I had to tell her that I did not base grades on race, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, religion, etc., but on the quality of one’s performance. She could, however, come to see me, if she experienced difficulties with the subject matter. She could also phone me at the office or at home. I would help.
Before closing, I should note that there is confusion concerning the word “race.” In French, race means “breed” and “race.” In l’abbé Lionel Groulx’s L’Appel de la race(The Call of the Race) race is breed or roots. I never included L’Appel de la race as necessary reading in my classes on French-Canadian literature. However, it is central to what is called “la question des écoles,” French-language schools outside Quebec, an issue one cannot remove from the discussion.
A discussion of the War of 1812, is relevant to both the Amerindian and Métis populations. Individual Amerindian chiefs negotiated treaties with the White. The famous Tecumseh opposed these treaties. He favored a centralized body of indigenous people. Tecumseh was killed on 5 October 1813, at the Battle of the Thames during the War of 1812.
There is/was racism in Canada and there were racial wrongs. Many Chinese died building a rail road across ranges of mountains. Moreover, the Japanese were sent to camps. As for the Indigenous people of Canada, they had a right to their land, and French-speaking Canadians should have been allowed to move west. They faced the school question, la question des écoles, which takes us back to Louis Riel. It is possible that the Royal Charter was amended officially, but I doubt it.
I must read further, but for the time being, I would urge demonstrators to be extremely careful. Covid-19 could kill millions. Demonstrations are very dangerous.
Gabriel Dumont, resistance fighter Gabriel Dumont was a man of great chivalry and military skill, superbly adapted to the presettlement prairie life (courtesy Glenbow Archives). (Photo credit: The Canadian Encyclopedia)
What we need to know is that Dumont was famous as a bison hunter. “In the 1860s, Gabriel was the chief of the Métis bison hunters and commanded approximately 200 hunters.” (Virtual Museum of Canada). As noted in the caption above, below his photograph, he was “superbly adapted to the presettlement prairie life.” His life gives us an insight into the life of Métis before the bison disappeared. The bison/buffalo fed the Métis, prairie Amerindians (North-American Indians), and voyageurs.
I should also point out that Dumont was among the Métis who left the former Red River Colony at the time of the Red River Rebellion, hoping Métis could settle on river lots further west, in Saskatchewan or Alberta. They did, briefly. Gabriel Dumont operated a ferry service, “Gabriel’s Crossing,” and opened a General Store with a billiard table, on the South Saskatchewan River.
Father Alexis André
Once Métis arrived, so did a priest. Father Alexis André (1832 – 1893), an Oblate born in France,would minister to the Métis who had left the Red River. He helped Gabriel Dumont form a Provisional Government for the community he was founding, Saint-Laurent de Grandin. As you know, Gabriel Dumont, a linguist, could not write.
At times, Father André was a spokesman for Métis. For instance, he feared for their well-being as he saw the bison disappear. Father André and North-West Mounted Police commissioner George Arthur French “urged the federal government to exercise tighter control over these hunts so as to prevent the extermination of the bison.” (See Alexis André, Dictionary of Canadian Biography.) But the federal government had turned its back on petitions, which is why Gabriel Dumont sought Louis Riel’s assistance. Louis Riel was well educated and possessed charisma.
Louis Riel returns
Dumont is, in fact, best remembered for going to Montana to ask for Louis Riel’s help. Therefore, the two figures are inextricably linked. Riel was to be the political leader of the North-West Rebellion and Gabriel Dumont, its military leader.
But the Canadian government was pushing its way west not realizing that Métis and Amerindians could remain on their rectangular lots abutting a river. Petitions went unanswered. So, blood was shed. At the Battle of Batoche (9 – 12 May 1885), 250 Métis fought Major-General Frederick Middleton’s superior force of 916 regulars and militia. Dumont escaped, but, on 15 May 1885, Louis Riel surrendered. (See The Battle of Batoche, Wikipedia.)
Father André also tended to the spiritual needs of Louis Riel during the period Riel awaited his execution. Father André believed Riel was insane, but Riel left a good impression on Father André.
The priest spent hours in conversation with the Métis leader and was impressed with Riel’s sincerity, yet convinced of his insanity.
As we know, moving west was a mere respite for Métis and the indigenous people of the Prairie Provinces. On 20 July 1871, a year after Manitoba entered Confederation, British Columbia also joined. A dream came true. Canada stretched from sea to sea: A Mari usque ad Mare. The people of British Columbia wanted a wagon road built between Lake Superior and the Pacific Ocean, but Cartier offered a railway instead. Construction would begin without two years and be completed in ten years. Cartier/Canada also agreed to take over the colony’s considerable debt of almost $1.5 million and provide an annual subsidy of $216,000.
Shooting the Rapids by Frances Ann Hopkins, 1879 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The voyageurswere the French-speaking Canadian boatmen or canoemen, who travelled in birch-bark canoes from Ottawa or Lachine, to fur-trading posts in what is now Manitoba and Minnesota, Grand-Portage being the main trading post.
First, they had to short-legged. Being short-legged was important because they had to transport as much fur as possible relatively small canoes and much of the fur was stored under each canoeman’s seat in the canoe. There was very little room for their legs.
Second, a strong upper body was an essential characteristic. They sometimes had to go from one waterway to another waterway and when they did, they carried fur (usually beaver pelts) and personal supplies on their back, bundles called bales, they carried on their backs, weighed more than 40 kilos (about 90 pounds), perhaps a conservative figure. And they also had to carry their canoe. These parts of their trips were called a portage (from the French porter: to carry).
Third, they had to be good singers.
The Singing Voyageurs
Travellers to North-America, fur traders, employees and governors of fur-trading companies, such as the Hudson’s Bay Company, historians, and others often reported that the Canadien voyageur, sang as he paddled canoes filled with precious pelts.
Les Trois Cavaliers fort bien montés (The Three Well-Mounted Horsemen), a folksong, inspired Irish poet Thomas Moore to give it new words in 1804. It became the famousCanadian Boat Song.
In Kitchi-Gami[i], J. G. Kohl writes that “They [the voyageurs] were chosen men! The best singers in the world:”
C’était des hommes choisis ! Les plus beaux chanteurs du monde!
Portages were so difficult that the men often chose to “shoot the rapids.” At such times, I doubt that they sang. “Shooting the rapids” was dangerous and many men died. Alongside the rivers the voyageurs used to go from Lachine (Montreal), or Ottawa, the usual points of departure, to what is now Manitoba and Minnesota, there are little white crosses. The voyageurs left small white crosses where boatmen had die.
We have to distinguish between the voyageurs who had a licence to work in the fur trade and those who roamed the forests without the proper permit, called coureurs de/des bois. As for the voyageur, he was a hired man: an engagé. But thecoureurs des bois were adventurers. They roamed the woods without a permit and if they got caught fur-trading, they faced sanctions and the beaver pelts they had not sold were confiscated.
These men usually signed a three-year contract which meant that they often left behind, a wife and children to whom the earnings of the voyageur were usually sent. However, many men lived with Amerindian women or married Amerindian women. Their children were Métis.
However, some voyageur wanted to marry a French-Canadian woman and simply waited. Canada’s Louis Riel‘s grandfather, Jean-Baptiste Lagimodière, went to Quebec to marry Marie-Anne Gaboury, the first white woman to settle in Western Canada. Their daughter Julie married a Métis named Louis Riel and they had a son they named Louis Riel. SeveralMétisremained in Manitoba, but the Battle of Batoche took place in Saskatchewewan. Many retired in Minnesota, USA. Those who did had usually been employed by the American Fur Trade company, founded by John Jacob Astor in 1808.
I will continue to tell the story of the voyageurs, but let this be the background. We have actually gone a long way. For the time being, I will continue to reflect on the fact that these men sang despite the dangers they faced and their isolation from their home.
[i] G. Kohl, Kitchi-Gami. Wanderings Round Lake Superior (London: Chapman and Hall, 1860). Available in paperback, with an introduction by Robert E. Bieder, under the title Life Among the Lake Superior Ojibway(St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1985 ).
Buffalo at Sunset by Paul Kane, c. 1851 – 1856 (National Gallery of Canada)
“I have done three good things since I have commenced: I have spared Boulton‘s life at your instance, I pardoned Gaddy, and now I shall shoot Scott.” (Louis Riel, Wikipedia)
Riel, Louis and theFirst Provisional government, 1869 (courtesy Glenbow Archives/NA-1039-1) (Photo credit: The Canadian Encyclopedia)
March 4, 1870. Protestant Orangeman Thomas Scott is executed on orders from Louis Riel (from the Illustrated Canadian News, April 23, 1870/Glenbow Collection) (Photo credit: The Canadian Encyclopedia)
Executing Thomas Scott is in fact the worst thing Riel ever did. “Some historians say this was one of Riel’s most fatal errors.” (See Execution of Thomas Scott, A Country by Consent.) It was.
Irish-born Thomas Scott, an Orangeman from present-day Ontario, was captured when he and his party tried to break into Fort Garry, the former Red River Colony and future Winnipeg. He could have been freed on the condition that he leave the valley, but he wouldn’t leave the valley. He was a member of the Orange Order, named after Dutch-born Protestant king William of Orange, anti-Catholics Protestants who looked upon French Canadians as “morally inferior:”
Its [the Orange Order’s] members generally viewed Roman Catholics and French Canadians as politically disloyal or culturally inferior. Some Orange members argued that their association was the only one capable of resisting Catholics who, they believed, were subservient to the Pope’s spiritual and political authority and who were therefore disreputable crown subjects.
As an Orangeman and very anti-Catholic, Thomas Scott repeatedly taunted his captors and threatened to kill Riel.” (See Execution of Thomas Scott, A Country by Consent.) Moreover, Orangemen had a “penchant for violence and secrecy.”
Colonial administrators in Upper Canada/ Canada West were at times thankful for their loyalty and service, and other times disparaged their penchant for violence and secrecy.
One can understand that after Canadian Confederation, Canada’s first Prime Minister, John A. Macdonald, and his government might wish to expand westward. In 1867, the United States had bought Alaska from Russia. Moreover, the United States had developed an ideology, Manifest Destiny (c. 1850), which suggested that Americans “were destined to expand across North America the special virtues of the American people and their institutions, etc.” (See Manifest Destiny, Wikipedia.)
Therefore, John A. Macdonald and his government purchased Rupert’s Land, a vast territory, named after Prince Rupert of the Rhine, who supplied Pierre-Esprit Radisson with a ship, the Nonsuch, that took him near the center of the continent. For men employed by the Hudson’s Bay Company, chartered in 1670, portages were minimized. The HBC’s trading post was York Factory, built in 1684. However, in 1774, the Hudson’s Bay Company built Cumberland House, on the Saskatchewan River, its first western inland post. “Brigades” of canoes would go down waterways to acquire beaver pelts used to make top hats or chapeaux haut-de-forme. At this point, the Hudson’s Bay Company and the North-West Company became fierce competitorsuntil the merger of the two companies in 1821.
However, although one can understand Prime Minister John A. Macdonald‘s wish to expand the new Canadian Confederation westward, but he did so without consulting the inhabitants of the Red River Colony, depicted above in Peter Rindisbacher‘s art, many of whom were Métis. The Earl of Selkirk had settled the Red River Colony in the early decades of the 19th century. So, the Colony’s citizens were alarmed because of the influx of immigrants that followed Confederation. New Canadians were moving West in a manner that did not reflect the way the Earl of Selkirk’s had settled the community. (See The Red River Settlement, Canada’s First Peoples and Lord Selkirk’s Grant, CBC.ca) It was located at the juncture of the Red River and the Assiniboine, in modern-day Winnipeg.
When he returned from studying in Montreal, Louis Riel, the grandson of Jean-Baptiste Lagimonière, or Lagimodière, and Marie-Anne Gaboury, noticed that life was changing in the Red River Colony and that it was not changing to the benefit of the Métis, who numbered 10,000. For instance, “[t]he Métis did not possess title to their land, which was, in any case, laid out according to the seigneurial system rather than in English-style square lots.” (See Louis Riel, Wikipedia.) French seigneuries were narrow strips of land on the shores of the St. Lawrence. Given that they were narrow, several seigneuries could be built on each side of the St. Lawrence River. Such a configuration facilitated transportation.
In short, entry of the Red River Colony into Confederation seemed a takeover.
On 20 August 1869, a survey party arrived. On 11 October, the survey’s work was interrupted so, on 16 October, a “Métis National Committee” was formed at which point Louis Riel was summoned by the HBC-controlled Council of Assiniboia and “declared that any attempt by Canada to assume authority would be contested unless Ottawa had first negotiated terms with the Métis.” (See Louis Riel, Wikipedia.) On 2 November, unilingual William McDougall, who had just been appointed Lieutenant Governor of Rupert’s Land and the North-Western Territory, attempted to enter the settlement. McDougall had participated in the purchase of Rupert’s Land. He and George-Étienne Cartier had gone to London seeking funds to purchase Rupert’s Land. Métis “led by Riel seized Fort Garry [present-day Winnipeg].” (See Louis Riel, Wikipedia.) The Métis formed a Provisional Government, the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia, on 6 December and on 27 December 1869, Louis Riel became its President. On 4 March 1870, 28 year-old Irish- born Thomas Scott was executed by firing squad, but he may have been left to die of his wounds. (See Louis Riel, Library and Archives Canada.)
The execution of Thomas Scott: a mistake
The execution of Irish-born Ontario Orangeman Thomas Scott, on 4 March 1870, is central to an account of the Red River Rebellion and to the fate of French-speaking Canadians in western Canada. Thomas Scott was violent. “He took part in a strike in 1869, for which he was fired and convicted of aggravated assault.” Therefore, he may have attempted to kill Louis Riel. Moreover, “Scott backed the annexation of the Red River Settlement to Canada, and the rest of his life revolved around this conflict. Scott had persecuted many metis, or “Half Breeds” in Winnipeg, and his first town, Ottawa, with a mysterious man named Gnez Noel.” Members of the Orange Order “generally viewed Roman Catholics and French Canadians as politically disloyal or culturally inferior.” (See Orange Order, The Canadian Encyclopedia.)
In fact, colonial administrators were of two minds with respect to members of the Orange Order.
Colonial administrators in Upper Canada/ Canada West were at times thankful for their loyalty and service, and other times disparaged their penchant for violence and secrecy.
In short, Thomas Scott was not a model citizen. On the contrary. Yet, would that, however “violent and boisterous” he was, 28-year-old Thomas Scott had been spared a death sentence, if only out of compassion. I should think a pardon would have prevented Riel’s own demise and, perhaps, allowed French Canadians to settle west. Thomas Scott was a very young man whom almost everyone would have forgotten, but who would, henceforth, be considered a martyr taken into captivity at Fort Garry, and murdered by a so-called government of ‘Half Breeds.’
Besides, was the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia a government? In their own eyes, they were. Yet, if French Canadians were “morally inferior,” one would surmise that French Métis, a blend of French Canadians and Aboriginals, at first, were morally inferior to French Canadians. I doubt that the Métis Provisional Government, or the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia, could be taken seriously and I believe it could not anticipate the impact of the execution of Thomas Scott(The Canadian Encyclopedia). I suspect that for many Canadians, Métis could not form a government.
In fact, it would be my opinion that Riel was very angry, which is the reason he would be committed to an asylum in the mid-seventies. After the Red River Rebellion of 1870, he was elected to Parliament three times, but he was never allowed to take his seat in the House of Commons. It has been suggested that Riel suffered from megalomania, which could be the case, but, first and foremost, he was very angry and had reason to be.
His [Riel’s] mental state deteriorated, and following a violent outburst he was taken to Montreal, where he was under the care of his uncle, John Lee, for a few months. But after Riel disrupted a religious service, Lee arranged to have him committed in an asylum in Longue Pointe on 6 March 1876 under the assumed name “Louis R. David[.]” Fearing discovery, his doctors soon transferred him to the Beauport Asylum near Quebec City under the name “Louis Larochelle.”
The inhabitants of the Red River Colony, the Métis and Aboriginals especially, had a right to their land. It had belonged to the Hudson’s Company Bay since 1670, but colonial powers usurped the land they occupied. As for the Red River Colony, it had also been settled. The Earl of Selkirk‘s family had bought sufficient shares in the Hudson’s Bay Company to acquire the land he settled, but that land have been claimed by the Hudson’s Bay Company, not purchased.
However, the notion that land in North America had been claimed, not bought, was probably lost on John A. Macdonald and his fledgling government. It had been lost on all colonial powers and colonists. By modern standards, it seems legitimate on the part of the European citizens of the Red River to determine their relationship with Canada.
The Red River Colony occupied land that had been bought by Lord Selkirk. One could say that it was not Rupert’s Land. One could argue that William McDougall and his surveyors were trespassing on land bought by the Earl of Selkirk, that now belonged to the citizens of the Red River Colony, the future Winnipeg, which means that the inhabitants of the Red River Colony had rights. Although Bishop Alexandre-Antonin Taché and Hudson’s Bay Company governor William MacTavish, advised caution on the part of John A. Macdonald’s government, the Canadian minister of public works, William McDougall, ordered a survey of the area, he and his men arrived on 20 August 1869. (See Louis Riel, Wikipedia.)
As for John A. Macdonald, at this stage, he was still inexperienced. He therefore purchased Rupert’s Land, part of which belonged to the Red River Colony (Upper Fort Garry) was located, without consulting its inhabitants, which led to the Red River Rebellion. Following the Red River Rebellion, there was little room in Western Canada for Catholics, French Canadians, and Métis. A committee of three travelled to Ottawa:
Riel’s Provisional Government sent Father Noël-Joseph Ritchot a close adviser of Riel’s, Alfred Scott, a Winnipeg bartender, and Judge John Black, to Ottawa to negotiate with the Canadian government.
The news of Scott’s execution arrived ahead of them. John Schultz and Charles Mair, who had both been imprisoned by the Provisional Government for a period of time, were now in Ontario and determined to turn public opinion against Riel.
However, no sooner was the Manitoba Act of 1870 signed than John A. Macdonald, fearing the United States would annex Manitoba, dispatched the Wolseley Expedition (or Red River Expedition) to “restore order.” The Expedition left Toronto in May 1870 reaching Fort Garry, or the Red River in late August 1870.
After a journey lasting three months of arduous conditions, the Expedition arrived at, and captured, Fort Garry, extinguished Riel’s Provisional Government and eradicated the threat of the U.S. being able to easily wrest western Canada from Confederation.
Riel fled the Red River upon the conclusion of the Wolseley Expedition (Wikipedia). During the 1879s, he was elected into office three times, but was never allowed to sit in the House of Commons. After his illness, a nervous breakdown, he went to the United States, worked as a teacher and married, Marguerite Monet,à la façon du pays, and fathered two children. He returned to Canada in 1885, summoned by Gabriel Dumont, he was taken prisoner when Métis were defeated at the Battle of Batoche, Saskatchewan, (in May 1885).
How does one conclude?
Louis Riel attempted to protect land the white man, Europeans, had taken from North-American Indians, Amérindiens. However, Riel made the mistake of condemning Thomas Scott to death, giving a martyr to the Orange Order and pursuing Riel for fifteen years and executing him? The Métis were not recognized as an aboriginal people until the Patriation of the Constitution (The Canadian Encyclopedia), in 1982.
As for the Métis List of Rights(A Country by Consent), recognized in the Manitoba Act of 1870, they were short-lived rights. In 1890, Manitoba passed An Act to Provide that the English Language shall be the Official Language of the Province of Manitoba (See Manitoba Act, The Canadian Encyclopedia). In March 1890, the government of Manitoba “passed two bills amending the province’s laws on education: An Act respecting the Department of Education and An Act respecting Public Schools.” These bills abolished the province’s dual school system: Catholic and Protestant. French-speaking children attended English language schools.
Orangemen disparaged the Jesuits’ Estates Act of 1888 and resented the influx of French Canadian Catholics into Eastern Ontario at the turn of the 20th century. Finally, in the debates surrounding the Manitoba Schools Question and the Ontario Schools Question, Orangemen vigorously agitated against Catholic education because of its ties to the French language.
As for Riel, he was neither a hero or a rebel, but a victim, a victim of colonialism. Amerindians were nomadic, which they could not be after the purchase of Rupert’s Land. Colonial powers gave themselves rights they did not have. Riel was executed for High Treason, after the Battle of Batoche, following the North-West Rebellion(1885).
Louis Riel is the grandson of Jean-Baptiste Lagimonière/Lagimodière (1778-1855), a farmer and a voyageur who made a name for himself. On 21 April 1806, he married Anne-Marie Gaboury (1780 – 1875), the first white woman resident in the west, and the grandmother of legendary Louis Riel.
Upon learning that the Earl of Selkirk, DOUGLAS, THOMAS, Baron DAER and SHORTCLEUCH, 5th Earl of SELKIRK (1771 [St Mary’s Isle, Scotland] – 1820 [Pau, France]) was settling the Red River, Lagimonière and his wife went to live in the Red River settlement. But rivalry between the Hudson’s Bay Company and the North West Company was so intense that North-West Company men nearly destroyed the settlement.
Lagimonière was sent to Montreal to speak to Lord Selkirk, but taken prisoner on his way back to Manitoba. Lord Selkirk attacked the fort and the settlers were able to resume a difficult but relatively normal life. Lord Selkirk rewarded Lagimonière for his services, by giving him a large grant of land between the Red River and the Seine, close to present-day Winnipeg. Lagimonière had become a celebrity.
The Lagimonières had several children: four girls and four boys and, at one point, they became a very prosperous family. One of the Lagimonière daughters, Julie, married a Métis, a neighbour named Louis Riel, and is the mother of Louis Riel (22 October 1844 – 16 November 1885; aged 41) who is considered the father of Manitoba.
Louis Riel (1844 -1885; by hanging)
An intellectually-gifted child, Louis Riel was sent to the Petit Séminaire, in Montréal. In a petit séminaire, one prepared for the priesthood. Louis Riel dropped out before graduation and studied law under Rodolphe Laflamme.
Riel was not very fond of the subtleties of laws and slowly found his way back to Manitoba working odd jobs in Chicago and St Paul, Minnesota. Many voyageurs, who had been employed by John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Company, retired in Minnesota. Riel then travelled back to the Red River settlement, which had changed during his absence.
On his arrival in St-Boniface, the current French area of Winnipeg, Riel observed that settlers had arrived from Ontario. They were white Anglo-Saxon Protestants who disliked Catholics. Many were Orangemen or Orangists. Settlers had also moved up from the United States.
As well, land surveyors were dividing up the land, but not in the manner it had been divided formerly. The long strips of land of New France were becoming square lots. This land still belonged to the Hudson’s Bay Company, but the Crown was preparing for a purchase (1869), and no room was being made for the Métis.
Moreover, William McDougall, an outsider, had been appointed Lieutenant-Governor of the territory and was overseeing the progress of the land surveyors.
As for the Métis, they had suffered from an invasion of grasshoppers, so food was scarce. Moreover, immigrants were dwarfing Métis and Amerindians. They needed a leader and went to Louis Riel, who was literate and had studied law.
A goodwill mission arrived from the Federal Government. One member of this group was Donald A. Smith, the chief representative of the Hudson’s Bay Company. Frightened by Thomas Scott and Charles Boulton, Métis had them imprisoned and court-martialed. They were condemned to death by Ambroise Lépine.
Charles Boulton was pardoned, but
Thomas Scott, an Orangeman, was executed, despite pleas on the part of Donald Smith of the Hudson’s Bay Company.
Manitoba enters into Confederation: 12 May 1870
The Bishop of Saint-Boniface, Bishop Taché, returned from Rome carrying an amnesty proclamation for all acts previously performed. At this point, Riel and his men reached an agreement and the Manitoba Law was passed on 12 May 1870. The Federal Government gave land to the Métis and made both French and English the official languages of the new Province of Manitoba.
However, in 1870, after learning that Colonel Garnet Wolseley was being sent to the Red River by the new Governor-General, A. G. Archibald, Riel fled to the United States but returned home to Saint-Vital in the fall of 1871. He then offered to help keep Fenians from attacking the Red River Settlement.
was elected into office in 1873;
He was re-elected to the Federal Assembly in 1874, but a motion to expel him from the room was proposed by Orangist or Orangeman Mackenzie Bowell and passed.
But Riel was re-elected into office. However, he was prevented from sitting with other members of Parliament.
At about the same time, Ambroise Lépine’s death sentence for the “murder” of Thomas was commuted. Lépine spent two years in jail and lost all his rights. However, Lépine and Riel were amnestied in February 1875. Louis Riel’s amnesty was “conditional on five years of banishment from ‘Her Majesty’s Dominions.’”
Riel had a nervous breakdown in 1875 and was hospitalised for three years (1875-1878), under assumed names. He was treated for depression and turned to religion. At this point, Riel started believing he had a divine mission to guide his people.
Riel was released from the hospital and went to the United States where he managed to earn a living, became an American citizen, joined the Republican Party and, in 1880, married a Métis woman, Marguerite Monet. There is little information about Marguerite. Born in 1861, she died in 1886. Riel fathered three children, one of whom died as an infant.
In June 1884, Riel was asked, by Saskatchewan Métis Gabriel Dumont, to help Métis whose rights were being violated. Dumont had been defeated and wounded at the battle of Duck Lake, on 26 March 1885. Riel went to Saskatchewan believing that it was his divine mission to do so. He took over a Church in Batoche, Saskatchewan, and gathered a small army. However, on 6July 1885, he was officially arrested and accused of ‘treason.’
He was tried and his lawyer asked that he be examined by three doctors one of whom came to the conclusion that Riel was no longer responsible for his actions. This divided determination was not made public and Riel was condemned to death. Riel himself did not wish to use insanity as his defence.
Appeals failed so Louis Riel was hanged in Regina on 16 November 1885. His body was sent by train to Saint-Vital and he was buried in the cemetery of the Cathedral at Saint-Boniface.
To this day, opinion remains divided as to Riel’s guilt. Riel, who was hanged for “treason,” is nevertheless a Father of Confederation.
Yet, Louis Riel had been elected into office three times. He is still considered by many as the father of Manitoba. Riel had brought Manitoba into CanadianConfederation as a bilingual province where Métis were allotted the land they needed.
Yes, the Red River Rebellion was ‘treason,’ but clemency had been requested by the judge and there were mitigating circumstances: Riel’s mental health is one of these contingencies. However, the execution of Thomas Scotthad long generated enormous resentment on the part of Ontario Orangemen or Orangists. As a result, amnesty did not weigh in Riel’s favour.
As for the North-West Rebellion of 1885, it was considered ‘treason.’ Riel was found guilty and condemned to death, but the judge asked for clemency. However, Orangists remembered the execution of Thomas Scott and, despite appeals, Riel was hanged ostensibly for ‘treason,’ but also, in all likelihood, for the “murder” of Thomas Scott.
I have been unable to create posts, except drafts, since 20 January 2018. I am too tired and somewhat discouraged. But I continued working on French-speaking Canadians as a founding nation and also wrote a post on SOGI (sexual orientation and gender identity), a programme promoting an acceptance of diversity that is consistent with Canadian anti-bullying legislation. There’s an uproar in British Columbia that may be the result of entrenched discrimination against people whose sexual orientation differs from the most common form, which is heterosexuality. Communication is very difficult, whatever the topic, but sexuality is a particularly sensitive area. People often hear what they wish to hear or expect to hear. We then enter into a dialogue de sourds, a dialogue of the deaf.
Some men are born inside the body of a woman, and some women, inside the body of a man. However, the story of human sexuality is very complex and cannot be the subject matter of a mere post. So, teachers, and bloggers, have to simplify and state, in a nonjudmental way, that there is a continuum in sexual identity which includes homosexuality as well as bisexuality and asexuality. Anti-bullying legislation was first used in Quebec, in 2004, but the current battle is fought in British Columbia and spilling east.
I continued working on French Canada as a founding nation. This topic took me west of Quebec and, for reasons I cannot understand, it published itself before I could finish it. It has reverted to draft form, as it requires serious revisions. Many Quebecers have some Amerindian ancestry very few women were sent to New France before the Louis XIV sent filles du roy (the King’s Daughters) to New France. However, west of Quebec, voyageurs and fur traders married Amerindians and founded a nation: the Métis nation whose most famous and controversial figure is Louis Riel.