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Riel and The Métis

Riel's Provisional Government

Thomas Scott

The Birth of Manitoba

Riel flees to the USA

The Exil

Metis are calling him back


The Rebellion

Riel surrenders

The Trial

The death of Riel

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The Provisional Government

On November 23, Riel proposed the formation of a provisional government to replace the Council of Assiniboia. This surprised the English-speaking half-breeds who asked for a few days' adjournment for consultation, not believing that their mandate empowered them to make such a decision. The official transfer of the land to Canada had been set for December 1, 1869. During this period, Sir John A. Macdonald had postponed payment to the Company because of the disturbances in the Settlement.

On December 1, McDougall, who had not been notified of this, read the proclamation announcing the transfer of the Company's territories to Canada. This hasty gesture was later to cause problems. From that moment, Riel's Provisional Government became legitimate, for the Company lost all authority as of December 1 and Canada acquired none since it had not paid anything.

On December 10, Riel's Provisional Government's flag flew on the flag pole at Fort Garry. On December 27, following John Bruce's resignation, Louis Riel became president of the Provisional Government. To this point in time, the Canadian government had been unaware of all the problems at Red River. Macdonald now sent a special commissioner to explain his government's position to the Métis.

On December 27, Donald Smith, the Hudson's Bay Company's representative in Canada and a government agent, arrived in the Settlement. A meeting which began on January 19, 1870 attracted upwards of 1,000 people. During the meetings on January 19 and 20, Smith made it known that his government had fundamentally good intentions with respect to the people of the Red River Settlement. In order to find a way of negotiating their rights with Ottawa, Riel proposed that another convention of 20 French-speaking and 20 English-speaking representatives be called to draw up a new list of rights.


The Convention began sitting one week later and their work was completed by February 10. With unanimous agreement, Riel formed a provisional government which was more representative than the previous one. Three delegates were elected to go and present the "List of Rights" to the Canadian government: Father Noël Ritchot, Judge Black and Alfred Scott. Everything seemed to indicate a return to a state of calm, but such was not to be the case. Even while the delegates were still sitting, a group of "Canadians" was preparing a counter-Riel movement. These men had supported John Schultz and J. S. Dennis in opposing Riel's Provisional Government in December 1869. Several of them had been imprisoned at Fort Garry, but a substantial group was still at large in the vicinity of Portage la Prairie.


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