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, Newfoundland signalhill compressed

His eventful life and eventual demise have been the source of many historical comments and criticism over the years and the views on Riel have fluctuated during this time. But in order to comprehend the controversy that surrounds this figure, one must become familiar with a morsel of Canadian history that has intensified the polarization of English-French, East-West, and catholic-protestant dichotomies.

Riel was born in St. Boniface in 1844 and grew up in the Métis community that resided in the Red River Settlement. He started his education to become a priest in a school in Montreal when he was 13 and despite his outstanding performance, he abandoned this pursuit and returned home to the Red River. The chain of events that eventually led to Riel’s execution, started in March 1869, as the Hudson Bay Company sold the North-Western Territory to the Dominion of Canada. As a result, the federal government chose William McDougall as its appointed lieutenant-governor and sent survey crews to the new territories to map and assess the lands.

The Métis community of the Red River which was concerned by the cultural, social, and political outcomes of this union with the Canadian government, assembled the Métis National Committee with Riel as its secretary and later as its head to prevent the union at all costs. The committee stopped the land surveyors at first and then proceeded to stop the arrival of McDougall to the Red River by creating roadblocks and finally established the government of the Red River Settlement by seizing the Fort Gary – now Winnipeg, rejecting Canadian authority.