Many efforts have been made to clear Louis Riel of his charge of treason in 1885. One of the first bills introduced to the House of Commons pertaining to the exoneration of Louis Riel was the Private Members Bill C-417 in the 36th parliament called, “An Act Respecting Louis Riel” (An Act Respecting Louis Riel – Bill C-417).
“The purpose of this Act is to reverse the conviction of Louis Riel for high treason and to formally recognize and commemorate his role in the advancement of Canadian Confederation and the rights and interests of the Metis people and the people of Western Canada.” (The full publication can be read here).
Reg Alcock, a member of the Liberal Party and MP representing Winnipeg South, brought forward the bill in 1998. He introduced in in parliament by saying,
“Mr. Speaker, the bill is the result of many years of hard work by dozens and dozens of people: representatives of the Riel family, Metis leaders from across Canada, members of the House, lawyers, historians, and even a former chief justice of Manitoba.
The bill will not bring Louis Riel back to life. Nor does it change our history. What it will do is change our heritage, change what we learn from our history. It will do this by removing the stain of treason from Louis Riel’s name.
At this time I ask for unanimous consent of the House, because of the unique nature of the bill, to broaden the names of the list of members supporting the bill.”
Some honorary members then agreed. He then said,
“Mr. Speaker, I served notice to all the House leaders and I appreciate their agreement.
Because of the unique nature of private members’ bills in that they stand in one person’s name, I would like to add the names of Mr. Denis Coderre, the member for Bourassa; Val Meredith, the member for South Surrey-White Rock-Langley; Suzanne Tremblay, the member for Rimouski-Mitis; Lorne Nystrom, the member for Qu’Appelle; and Rick Borotsik, the member for Brandon-Souris.” (Reg Alcock – An Act Respecting Louis Riel – Open Parliament).
Some honorary members agreed to proceed.
This bill, “An Act Respecting Louis Riel” sparked some controversy between the sponsors of the bill and conservative MP from Edmonton, Peter Goldring who put out a publication saying that,
“Those who want to exonerate him for his crimes more than 100 years later are ignoring the severity of his crimes.” (Peter Goldring – The Truth About Louis Riel).
According to Métis historians and scholars George and Terry Goulet, Goldring’s pamphlet was “riddled with numerous egregious errors and many omissions”. This pamphlet was condemned by the Conservative party and a representative of Stephen Harper said that, “This document is absolutely not, in any way, an initiative of our government or our party,” (Mp’s Anti Riel Comments Condemned by Metis and Government Officials).
Thanks to continued efforts by Manitoban politicians like Reg Alcock, Louis Riel is officially recognized as the Founder of Manitoba and the province of Manitoba has designated every third Monday in February as Louis Riel Day.
Sources and More Information
Alberta Metis – Louis Riel Needs No Pardon
Tory MP Calls Riel a Villian – CBC
Peter Goldring – The Truth About Louis Riel
Mp’s Anti Riel Comments Condemned by Metis and Government Officials
An Act Respecting Louis Riel – Bill C-417
Reg Alcock – An Act Respecting Louis Riel – Open Parliament