In my opinion Louis Riel was a hero because he fought for the rights of everyone who lived in the northwest, he was rebelling against a government, not a country and he was against acts of violence and loss of life. Furthermore Louis’s acts might be considered crazy by today’s standards but in the 1890’s it was not uncommon or insane. Louis lived in the Red River settlement and wanted to protect their rights but he also fought for the rights of the white settlers in the area and for the natives. Louis was a patriot, he was proud to be Canadian, he just didn’t agree with the government at the time.
Louis Riel was a freedom fighter, not a rebel against his country. He was rebelling against the men in government who suppressed his people. “The entire process which saw the spread of the Canadian Governments imperialistic authority over the west, ignored the people who were there long before England decided to give it to a new country. Riel was a freedom fighter for the west and should be recognized as such. He faced and fought a central Canadian government, ignorant of the west, long before Preston Manning was born.” (Richard Brown, Alberta, July 7th, 1999 http://www.metisresourcecentre.mb.ca/quotes/). If Louis hadn’t stood up for the Meti people, the government would have let them starve and their culture would be lost. Likewise if any minority was treated like that now, they could only be so fortunate to have someone like Louis Riel to stand up for them.
Louis was against violence unless it was absolutely necessary. He only wanted to ensure that the people of the Northwest would retain their rights and traditions after the Canadian government took control of the area. When he and his Mati people used violence it was because they had no other options. “John A MacDonald breaks the law of the time by inducing rebellion.” (Sir Wilfred Laurier http://www.metisresourcecentre.mb.ca/quotes/). Two examples of Riel using non-violent solutions first are when he sent Meti to confront the land surveyors instead of sending them to kill the surveyors. And when he seized fort Garry and its munitions, instead of burning it down or shooting the people inside. His method of not being vicious helped him be victorious in many situations. “You can be sure that we would have beaten them had it not been for Louis Riel who always counseled us not to spill their blood” Gabriel Dumont.
Today, if someone came up to you and said they were chosen by god to lead their people to freedom would you believe them or laugh and call them insane? Chances are most modern people would do the laughing. But in the 1880’s things were different, people were more religious and it was less than impossible to voice your opinions to the government. Riel lived in a time when the country was still being shaped, new provinces were being formed, and he was not out of line to demand that his people be included. Today we have a responsible government, for example when native people in BC felt cheated out of their ancestors land, our government gave some of the land back and took steps to see that that doesn’t happen again. Ironically this is the same land the post-confederation government took away!
When you look at all the facts and consider the time period, Riel doesn’t seem like such a bad guy. He did what any patriotic, freedom loving Canadian would have done in his shoes. Sure some of his beliefs and ideas may have been a little deranged, but when you compare it to all the exemplary things he accomplished, it dosent seam like a big deal. “I am more convinced everyday that without a single exception I did right… and I have always believed that, as I have acted honestly, the time will come when the people of Canada will see and acknowledge it.”
(Louis Riel http://www.metisresourcecentre.mb.ca/quotes/) Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if some of our modern politicians were a little more like Louis Riel.
Courtney from Study Moose
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