Manitoba Day

May 1, 2023

Ushering Manitoba into Confederation was a long, hard-fought road, which started with the largest land sale in history by the Hudson's Bay Company in 1868. Rupert's Land, which the Hudson's Bay Company "owned," was sold to the Dominion of Canada without consulting any of its Indigenous inhabitants, including the Métis.

In October of 1869, the Red River Métis called for an independent Métis republic, known as the Métis National Committee [3], to be formed. The committee elected John Bruce as president and Louis Riel as secretary. A group of 120 men [4] seized Upper Fort Garry in November and on Dec. 8, 1869, a provisional government consisting of both English-speaking and French-speaking Métis was formed [2].

It was this provisional government, led by Louis Riel, that negotiated Manitoba's entry into the Canadian Confederation. Before the Manitoba Act was passed, the Convention of Forty, consisting of 20 English-speaking Métis and 20 French-Speaking Métis delegates, worked to draft the second "List of Rights" (entitled "Bill of Rights"), which formed the basis of the Manitoba Act [2].

The Manitoba Act came into law and was passed by the Parliament of Canada and received Royal Assent on May 12, 1870, with the act officially proclaimed on July 15, 1870, when Manitoba joined the Confederation of Canada as the fifth province [1]. Important provisions in the Act included: bilingual denominational schools, judicial and parliamentary systems, and measures to address their "Indian" title to the land, through the granting of 1.4 million acres of land to "the children of the half-breed heads of families" (Section 31) [2].

Neither Louis Riel or the Métis were initially credited as the founders of Manitoba and, quickly after Manitoba's entry into Canada, the Métis were outnumbered by new immigrants to the area and subsequently persecuted for their role in both the Red River Resistance and the execution of anti-Métis settler Thomas Scott.

Thomas Scott was an Irish immigrant who was a member of the Canadian Party, led by John Christian Shultz, which was a small group of English Protestants that felt the Red River Colony should be led by English Protestants and the not the current Provisional Government led by Louis Riel. After an interrupted coup planning gathering, a group was arrested. Thomas Scott was not among this arrested, but his actions led to his eventual arrest. Scott escaped prison, only to be arrested again; he was tried and convicted of treason by a six-man council. He was executed by firing squad on March 4, 1870. Louis Riel was arrested during the Northwest Resistance and convicted of treason and eventually executed, though an unwritten element to Riel's death was that it was in retaliation for Thomas Scott's earlier execution. [3]]

It was not until more than 120 years later, on March 10, 1992, that Ottawa officially recognized Louis Riel as the founder of Manitoba. It was Louis Riel's vision, dedication and ultimate sacrifice that laid the groundwork for minority rights and cultural cooperation in Manitoba, making it the province we know today.


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