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Métis in Canada


Pitikwahanapiwiyan
Pitikwahanapiwiyan

A second Métis rising, the Northwest Rebellion, flared up in 1885, not in Manitoba but among newer Métis settlements in the Saskatchewan valley farther west. Settlement was moving west from Manitoba and catching up with the Métis who had moved there; once again they feared being overrun and dispossessed. They summoned Louis Riel back from exile to help defend their interests. Riel, driven by dreams of founding a French-speaking, Catholic religious empire, led Métis fighters in a brief war against Canadian authority. His general, veteran bison hunter Gabriel Dumont, defeated the Mounties at Duck Lake and drove them from Fort Carleton.

Like the Métis, the Cree and other Plains indigenous nations were struggling with poverty, loss of independence, and the loss of the great bison herds. Indigenous leaders, notably Pitikwahanapiwiyan (or Poundmaker) of the Cree and Isapo-muxika (or Crowfoot) of the Blackfoot, foresaw the result of armed conflict and sought to avoid it. However, a few renegades of the Cree nation joined in the rebellion, attacking settlers and Canadian forces.

Canada rushed troops westward on the new railroad, and the Métis were overwhelmed at the battle of Batoche, May 12, 1885. Riel was tried for treason. He rejected an insanity defense and was hanged in November 1885. The Métis defense of their community’s rights in the West elicited the sympathy of many people in Québec, and Riel’s execution spurred French Canadian resentment against English Canadian dominance in the Confederation.

Prime Minister John A. Macdonald was committed to a strong central government, but he was unable to prevent provincial governments from challenging his view of the British North America Act. Oliver Mowat, premier of the province of Ontario between 1872 and 1896, asserted provincial sovereignty against federal efforts to subordinate the provincial governments to Ottawa.

In a series of rulings on the BNA Act, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London (a British court to which Canadian cases could still be appealed) mostly supported Mowat’s interpretation. Federal powers to overrule provincial governments rapidly faded from use, ensuring the provinces an important place in Canadian political life.

Mowat did not fight his campaign alone. Honoré Mercier, premier of Québec from 1887 to 1891, linked provincial rights with French Canadian nationalism. He promoted Québec’s provincial government as the defender of the French Canadian nation within Canada. He also promoted French Catholic colonization of frontier areas of Québec and northern Ontario as an alternative to emigration and assimilation in New England. In 1887 Mercier called a conference of provincial premiers, and at this conference Mercier, Mowat, and three more of the seven provincial premiers demanded transfer of power to the provinces. Federal-provincial rivalries became an essential part of Canadian politics. "Canada" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.

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