By: Jas Sidhu
Louis Riel fought for basic human rights. He was leader not only for the Métis but for all Canadians. With a steadfast commitment to protecting minority rights and the French language, Louis Riel fought for the very values that Canadians hold dear – equality, pluralism, and social justice. His many sacrifices have secured him an enduring place in our shared history as a champion of the Métis people, a founder of Manitoba, and a key contributor to Canadian Confederation.
“The ideals that Louis Riel fought for - ideals of inclusiveness and equality – are now the very same values on which we base our country’s identity”
- Justin Trudeau
Born in St. Boniface in 1844, the French speaking Métis boy was sent to Montreal to be educated and subsequently became an apprentice to a Quebec lawyer. Shortly after, Louis left the city to return to the Red River settlement. After the Hudson’s Bay Company surrendered Rupert’s Land to the Government of Canada, the Métis were left without representation. Louis Riel stepped in and co-founded the Provisional Government of Red River, which was used as a guiding body to usher the west into the Dominion peacefully and to assure that the demands of the Métis were heard. Through his leadership, the province of Manitoba was founded. In 1884, answering a desperate call sent out from his people, Riel returned to Canada and, once again, demanded equal treatment for the Métis. His pleas were answered with a military response and the Northwest Resistance ensued. Riel surrendered on May 15, 1885 and was condemned to death and hung for High Treason by the very country he helped to build. Every year on November 16th, the anniversary of the death of their most honoured leader, Métis people from across the homeland band together to remember the man, his cause and his legacy.