Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Opinion: It is time to exonerate Louis Riel

ses0418-batoche5: Louis Riel. With story by Judy Schultz for Southam Travel package moving April 18. (Edmonton Journal File photo) / LOUIS RIEL LED REBELLION.

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Wrongly charged, wrongly convicted and wrongly executed, the aforementioned Metis leaders are calling for a complete exoneration of Louis Riel. But not all Metis leaders are in agreement. Bolstered by the arguments advanced by the Metis lawyer Jean Teillet, the Manitoba Metis Federation (MMF) has been consistently opposed to this long overdue exoneration.

Their position has been best captured in Teillet’s book, The North-West is Our Mother, where she makes the following claim:

“Whether called exoneration or a pardon, such an act is one of extrajudicial clemency. It is a government grant of political expediency. It is never about justice or mercy. Clemency is never a statement of the accused’s innocence and always implies guilt and forgiveness. The government would be exonerating itself, not Riel. That is why the Metis Nation has rejected all calls for a pardon or exoneration. In their opinion it was Canada that committed the crime of hanging Riel. . . . As one of the Metis Nation’s legal scholars, Paul Chartrand, put it, “The hanging of Louis Riel is a stain on the honour of Canada. Let the stain remain.”

Teillet’s arguments are troubling. We are all familiar with the greed and racism that drove the Dominion government of the day to execute Riel (“though every dog in Quebec bark in his favour” as Macdonald so ignorantly put it). And, yes, Chartrand is correct in that this will always be a red stain on the honour and history of our country.

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