Man hanged for McGee murder remembered in ceremony

The family of the man convicted of murdering Thomas D'Arcy McGee wants his name cleared.

More than a century after his execution, James Patrick Whelan has found his final resting place... at least symbolically.

His death was one of the most high profile executions in Canadian history.

Whelan was executed in 1869. His crime the murder of Thomas D'Arcy McGee, one of the Fathers of Confederation. It was Canada's last public hanging.

Whelan's body was buried somewhere in the courtyard of the Ottawa prison.

"He never received the blessing, never received the prayers and was buried in unconsecrated ground," said relative Noble Whelan.

On Monday, family members held a ceremony near the spot where Whelan was hanged. A priest blessed the earth and placed some of it in a box. On Thursday, his family buried the box containing the earth alongside his widow at Cote des Neiges cemetery in Montreal.

"The whole thing is that they're going to be together now. In spirit, they should be both together," said Noble Whelan.

The Whelan family has always believed James Patrick was innocent, that he was used as a political scapegoat.

Lawyer Lawrence Greenspon agrees and would like a review of the Whelan case. "First, for the family, the clearing of the Whelan name after 130 years. Secondly, from a historical point of view, I think we owe it to this generation and generations to come to rewrite history and make sure that we get it straight."

The family would like to see James Patrick Whelan exonerated. But for now it's enough for them to know his spirit will rest beside his wife.

The ceremony also brings Whelan closer to the man he was convicted of murdering. Thomas D'Arcy McGee is buried in the same cemetery.