Louis Riel Let Justice Be Done

Exoneration is not the same as Pardon


As Canada enters its 150th year since Confederation Louis Riel’s conviction for high-treason stands as a prime example of Canadian injustices in the colonial era. The persecution, trial and execution of Louis Riel divided Canada on racial, religion, regional and language biases. The damage done by such a system has percolated through Canadian society with Aboriginal peoples and nations living in third world conditions, women missing and murdered, youth denied an education and incarcerated at alarming rates.

Like Canada’s Centennial 1967, Canada’s Sesquicentennial 2017 will provide Canadians with an opportunity to renew our democracy and heal old wounds. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission told all Canadians that healing, recognizing and undoing the errors of the past, is possible. Although there have been numerous Private Members Bills in the Canadian Parliament seeking a pardon or to have Riel’s conviction revoked, the criminal charges against Louis Riel remain. The concept of a Pardon for Louis Riel does not recognize that his actions were defensive in nature and that he had the right to defend himself and his Metis nation. Nor does it recognize the colonial nature of the judicial system that found Louis Riel guilty of the crime of high treason. Riel’s trial and execution remain as a great injustice at the core of Confederation. Today, across Canada, there is a desire to open a new narrative on Louis Riel. Our goal is to ensure Canada finally recognizes “Louis Riel’s proper place in Canada’s history.”[1] Reconciliation is in order—a Parliamentary exoneration is in order.

[1] Gathering Strength, Canada’s Aboriginal Action Plan, 1999



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