Louis Riel 'murdered by the Crown,' MP says
Published Tuesday, November 17, 2009 8:51PM EST
Louis Riel's conviction for treason should be overturned, says a Manitoba MP, who adds that the hero of Metis across the Prairies should be recognized as a Father of Confederation more than 100 years after his death.
NDP MP Pat Martin has introduced a private members' bill in the House of Commons, calling for Riel's 1885 conviction to be reversed and to recognize him both as the founder of Manitoba and for his work in defence of Canada's Metis population.
"On the Prairies there's a very strong movement that wants to recognize him not only as the founder of Manitoba but one of the founders of Confederation, and he should be considered one of the Fathers of Confederation because it was he who brought Manitoba into Confederation in 1870 as our fifth province," Martin told CTV's Power Play on Monday, the 124th anniversary of Riel's death.
"So my bill is simply stating that it's overdue that we reverse the conviction of Louis Riel. Not just pardon him -- because pardon says that you're guilty of something but we're going to forgive it somehow. To reverse the conviction is to exonerate Louis Riel and state that he was never guilty of treason."
In 1869, Riel led the Red River Rebellion to assert Metis rights in what was to become Manitoba. Later that year, he was elected head of a provisional government in Red River and in 1870, helped usher Manitoba into Confederation.
While Riel was elected to the House of Commons three times, he did not take his seat in Ottawa. Instead, he left Canada, but returned to lead the Metis in the Northwest Rebellion.
The federal government convicted Riel of high treason and executed him on Nov. 16, 1885, for his role in the rebellion.
Martin has been trying for years to rehabilitate Riel's image in Canada. His latest bill to exonerate Riel, C-258, went through its first reading in January, and will likely not come up for debate until next year.
According to Martin, the Canadian government did not have the authority to charge Riel.
"These events took place outside of the realm of the Crown, and he was charged with treason as it pertains to the realm of the Crown. Any good lawyer should be able to drive a truck through a loophole like that but he didn't have a good legal defence," Martin said.
"(The government) had made up their minds early on that they were going to get rid of this nuisance agitator who was fighting for the rights of the Metis, and more and more as the history comes to the surface, we see that the government of Canada wanted Louis Riel out of the way and they worked backwards from that conclusion. Really, it's safe to say he was murdered by the Crown."