Manitoba is Created
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The Mtis Resistance
Manitoba is Created
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Manitoba is Created

By spring 1870, Louis Riel was a wanted man in Canada. The leader of the Red River Resistance had made a strategic blunder when he executed an Ontario man named Thomas Scott during the uprising. There were calls in English Canada for Riel to be hanged.
Canadian Prime Minister John A. Macdonald was prepared to negotiate with Louis Riel if that would achieve his aims of integrating the northwest into Canada. He was also ready to use force if necessary. (Courtesy of the National Archives of Canada)
Canadian Prime Minister John A. Macdonald was prepared to negotiate with Louis Riel if that would achieve his aims of integrating the northwest into Canada. He was also ready to use force if necessary. (Courtesy of the National Archives of Canada)

Behind the scenes, the Canadian government was quietly acceding to most of the conditions Riel had set. The Métis would accept annexation to Canada as long as they were not stripped of their property or denied Catholic religious rights or French language rights.

As the tensions escalated in Red River, a team of three negotiators traveled to Ottawa, led by a soft-spoken priest called Father Nol Ritchot.

Ritchot was deeply loyal to Riel and went armed with a list of demands for a new province they wished to call Manitoba.

To avoid fanning the anti-Riel flames, Prime Minister John A. Macdonald and his close ally George Étienne Cartier met the delegates from Red River at a discreet distance from Parliament Hill. Macdonald was confident he could stare down the inexperienced prairie delegation and assert the government's will.

But Macdonald and Cartier were stunned by the steely determination of Ritchot. The priest demanded everything be put on the table. The delegation wanted full provincial status, responsible government for the citizens, provisions for separate schools for Catholics. Ritchot also persuaded the government to grant 1.4 million acres of land to the children of the Métis.

"We have spent about seventy-five hours in discussion with Sir George... to conclude this important business... Matters are going well for our poor but brave people of Red River, " said Ritchot.

In May 1870, their work was done and a new province was born.

With the completion of the Rupert's Land transfer, the young Dominion of Canada had acquired a land mass 30 times the size of Britain. And tucked in the corner of the vast territory was a small province called Manitoba, with protections for French-speakers, Catholics and the Métis.

But the Canadian government would not let it be Riel's Manitoba. There was no talk of amnesty for the Métis leader. And to appease Ontario, Macdonald dispatched a military force west.

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Louis Riel
Louis Riel
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The Capture of Fort Garry
The Capture of Fort Garry
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John A. Macdonald's Response
John A. Macdonald's Response
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The Execution of Thomas Scott
The Execution of Thomas Scott
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Riel in Exile
Riel in Exile
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