Before becoming a province, Manitoba was the stage for many events and pivotal moments in Canada’s history. Pending the transfer of Rupert’s Land to Canada, the federal government sent survey crews led by Lieutenant Governor William McDougall to map the Red River area in 1869. The Métis became concerned about the redistribution of land to future settlers and the effect this would have on their own lands.
The Métis group’s leader, Louis Riel, declared that the survey was a menace and established a “National Committee” of which he became secretary and John Bruce president. On October 25, 1869, Louis Riel was ordered to appear in front of the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia to explain himself. Riel indicated that the “National Committee” would prevent the entry of McDougall or any governors into Red River unless the union with Canada was based on negotiations with the local population.
In November, Riel proposed a first provisional government to replace the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia as part of the negotiations for the transfer of Rupert’s Land.
In January 1870, 20 English and 20 French representatives of the Red River Settlement met to debate a List of Rights and endorse Riel’s second provisional government. The fourth version of the List of Rights became the basis of the Manitoba Act.
The secretary of the Provisional Government, Louis Schmidt, moved to accept the Manitoba Act, and enter the Dominion of Canada, on the terms proposed in the Confederation Act. The motion was passed.
In his closing statements, Louis Riel underlined the significance of the vote:
I congratulate the people of the North-West on the happy issue of their undertakings (cheers). I congratulate them on their moderation and firmness of purpose; and I congratulate them on having trust enough in the Crown of England to believe that ultimately they would obtain their rights (cheers). I must, too, congratulate the country on passing from under this Provisional rule to one of a more permanent and satisfactory character.1
The Manitoba Act went into effect on July 15, 1870.
- The Canadian North-west, its early development and legislative records; minutes of the Councils of the Red river colony and the Northern department of Rupert’s land [available online].
- Records relating to Louis Riel and the North West Uprising [textual record], 1873–1886.
- Red River journal of Alexander Begg, 1869–1870 [textual record], later published.
- Red River rebellion [textual record], 1869–1874.
- Red River Settlement – Rebellion and miscellaneous papers [textual records], 1869–1879.
- William McDougall fonds [textual record, graphic material], 1844–1892.