Aftermath of the North-West/Riel Resistance

On 6 July 1885 Riel was charged with high treason for his leadership in the North-West/Riel Resistance. His trial began on 20 July 1885. Riel could not afford a defense attorney, so money was collected from his supporters in Quebec and François-Xavier Lemieux and Charles Fitzpatrick (two prominent Quebec defense lawyers) were hired to defend Riel. The defense strategy was to prove that Riel was insane, as denying the charge of high treason was, at the time, viewed as implausible. Various witnesses were called that either upheld Riel's sanity or considered the Metis leader insane. Riel's final speech ended any hope of him being acquitted. Riel spoke eloquently and passionately about the justification for the Metis resistance. After thirty minutes of deliberation, the jury arrived at a decision of guilt in relationship to the charge of high treason, with a recommendation for clemency. Judge Richardson disregarded the request for clemency and sentenced Riel to death by hanging in Regina on 18 September.


The Queen vs. Louis Riel, accused and convicted of the crime of high treason : report of trial at Regina : appeal to the Court of Queen's bench, Manitoba : appeal to the Privy council, England : petition for medical examination of the convict : list of petitions for commutation of sentence, Ottawa: 1886. See pages 192-199.

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Riel's Lawyers appealed this ruling in the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench as well as the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council but neither altered the original verdict. Riel was executed in Regina on 16 November 1885. Riel's trial and execution was part of the loss of various key Metis leaders in the aftermath of the North-West/Riel Resistance including Gabriel Dumont who fled to the United States.
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Trial and Execution of Louis Riel