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Louis Riel - Montréal

Setting out on June 1, 1858, in the company of the Reverend Sister Valade, they travelled for five weeks before eventually arriving in Montreal on July 5. In Montréal, Louis was admitted to the Collège de Montréal run by the Gentlemen of St. Sulpice, where he embarked upon an eight year classical course of studies, which included Latin, Greek, French, English, Philogophy and the Sciences. Louis proved himself to be an excellent student and, once he had caught up, placed himself at the top of his class. He was overwhelmed with grief by the death of his beloved father, in January 1864, whom he had not seen since leaving Red River. Although he continued his studies, his instructors found that his attitude had changed. They began to question whether Louis really had a religious vocation. In March 1865, finding its regulations too restrictive, he left the Collège de Montréal. He requested and was granted permission to continue his schooling as a day student while living with the Grey Nuns. After breaking the rules several times and repeatedly missing class, he was asked to leave both the Collège and the convent.

The world that faced him as he left the Collège was fraught with intense political activity. Nationalism was at the fore, ultramontanism and federalism were clashing and the issue of Confederation was being hotly debated. During this period, he lived with his aunt, Lucie Riel, the wife of John Lee, and managed to find employment in the law office of Rodolphe Laflamme, an anti-confederate and an anticleric. He fell in love with Marie Julie Guernon and even signed a marriage contract. However, this romance was quickly broken off as Marie's parents were opposed to their daughter marrying a Métis. Disappointed, Riel made his way to Chicago and St. Paul. It would appear that he lived for a while with the poet Louis Fréchette and a group of exiled French Canadian nationalists. It would also appear that he worked briefly for Edouard Langevin or Gilbert Lachance before returning to Manitoba. He arrived in St. Boniface on July 26, 1868, after an absence of ten years, an educated but unemployed young man. He was far from suspecting that within a short while he would become the defender of Métis rights and the future father of Manitoba.


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