Red River Rebellion

The first crisis of a confederated Canada


Many Canadian politicians supported the purchase of Rupert's Land from the Hudson's Bay Company. The population there was mostly composed of francophone Metis, many which were opposed to joining Canada. When the government declared that it had purchased Rupert's Land, the Metis at the Red River Settlement refused to accept Canadian control.


During the 1860's, the demographics of the Red River Settlement was shifting as more settlers from Ontario and America arrived. The Canadian settlers had no respect for Metis culture and they were hostile to Roman Catholicism, the religion of many Metis. On top of that, American settlers called for the annexation of the settlement by the US gov't. The Canadian and British gov'ts have been negotiating the sale of Rupert's Land, the parent of the settlement, to Canada.

Resistance to Canadian Annexation

The population of the Red River Settlement refused to accept Canadian control. The rebels organized a provisional gov't with Louis Riel and John Bruce as leaders. They turned away Canadian surveyors and seized important locations such as Fort Garry. The general population had no say in the negotiations between the Canadian gov't and Hudson's Bay Company. Riel wanted the Canadian gov't to consider what his people wanted before being annexed. He and his governments made a list of Metis rights for the Canadian gov't.

Execution of Scott and Aftermath

Within the Red River Settlement, there were still a pro-Canadian faction. The provisional gov't imprisoned these group who had began armed resistance against the provisional gov't. Riel had one of the leaders of this movement, Thomas Scott, executed to prove to the Canadians that the settlement should be taken seriously. This had been a great blunder, as Riel's public opinion quickly turned hostile.

Meanwhile, there was a delegation sent to the House of Commons to negotiate with the Canadians. The delegates came to terms with the Canadians, which resulted in the signing of the Manitoba Act of 1870. The act was based on the list of rights that Riel had written earlier in 1970. This act states the creation of Manitoba as a province of the Dominion of Canada, thus part of Confederation.

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A map of Canada during the early 1870's, showing the newly formed Manitoba and North-West Territories

Long-Term Effects

This rebellion was the first crisis that the newly formed Canadian gov't had to face, and thus it added to the experience of managing welfare. Besides that, they had added Manitoba and Northwest Territories to their confederation.

In the fear of being prosecuted for the execution of Thomas Scott, Riel fled to the US, where he lived until returning to Canada in 1885 to lead the North-West Rebellion. The rebellion occurred in Saskatchewan, as many of the Metis left Manitoba as settlers continued to disrespect their culture. This rebellion of 1885 was caused by disgruntled Metis on the basis that the Canadian gov't had failed to protect their rights which were put into place in the aftermath of the Red River Rebellion.

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