Louis Riel is one of Canada’s most controversial figures. Celebrated by some; scorned by others. Known infamously as the leader of the Red River Rebellion, the founder of Manitoba and hanged for treason on November 16, 1885 by the Canadian government.
Riel and the Métis who lived in the Red River settlement believed that the Hudson Bay’s sale of Rupert’s Land (which contained the Red River Settlement) to the Canadian government without their consent entitled the people of the Red River settlement to create their own provisional government. The citizens of the Red River, largely of Métis origin, felt that they had been cheated by the Hudson Bay Company and the Canadian government and wanted a say in their future.
From Prime Minister John A. MacDonald’s perspective the rebellion was largely an annoyance - an obstacle in the way of Canada’s consolidation of the west. MacDonald was particularly eager to put down the rebellion as soon as possible since the United States was on an aggressive annexation campaign of its own. Louis Riel was elected to Parliament three times but never held office for fear of being brought to trial or even lynched. As tensions mounted numerous small skirmishes between the Red River Métis and the RCMP lead to dozens of deaths and Riel’s ultimate trial and conviction for treason. Today, Riel is considered a father of Manitoba