The death of Louis Riel

On July 21, the court was adjourned for one week to allow enough time for the witnesses to appear. The examination of the witnesses began on July 28 and continued through to August 1.

Riel was sentenced to hang on September 18. Then a series of appeals began. The first one was to the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench which affirmed the original sentence on September 2. The appeal succeeded, however, in having the execution postponed until October 16.

A second appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council was dismissed and the execution was set for November 10. Macdonald, uncertain what decision to make, yielded to pressure from Ontario and Quebec and granted a third reprieve to enable a medical commission to examine Riel.

When the commission was unable to pronounce him insane, the date of execution was set for November 16. While awaiting death, Riel received a visit from his family and on November 6, he wrote his will.

During the night of the 15th and the early hours of the 16th, he wrote one last letter to his mother and received the last rites. At 8:00 a.m., he climbed the stairs to the scaffold for his execution.

On November 19, a service was sung for the repose of his soul at St. Mary's Church in Regina. On December 9, his body was returned to St. Vital where it lay in state for 2 days in his mother's house. A requiem mass was sung December 12 at St. Boniface Cathedral and his body was buried in the churchyard.

Thus lived and died a man whom we acknowledge today as the founder of the Province of Manitoba and defender of the rights of the Métis and of French Canadians.


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