Métis Debate Over Exoneration of Louis Riel Absurd

Certain Métis political leaders in Canada seem to suggest an exoneration of Louis Riel would somehow let Canada “off the hook.” BC Métis Federation finds this outrageous and not what the large majority of grass roots Métis people feel in this country.

Friends of Louis Riel this week are supported by the BC Métis Federation. The life of Louis Riel deserves justice and this must include Louis Riel’s exoneration.

On Nov 16th, 2017 CBC News posted an article entitled, ‘132 years after his execution, many Métis reject exonerating Louis Riel’. This article expresses the views of Manitoba Métis Federation President David Chartrand and lawyer Jean Teillet, who speak for a very small percentage of Métis in Canada on this issue. Reconciliation must transcend these fear tactic politics.

Future points to consider about specific statements by Jean Tiellet:

The CBC article on the exoneration of Louis Riel has some serious and, indeed, fatal flaws in the vacuous arguments by Jean Tiellet and David Chartrand;

1. Jean Tiellet stated Exonerating Riel would be the equivalent of the Government exonerating itself.

That would not be its motive if Exoneration was requested by the Metis people themselves and by the Riel family.

2. Jean Tiellet stated there is no point in exonerating Riel.

Yes, there would be a point. In the eyes of the laws of Canada today, Riel is a “treasonous criminal convict”. This stain must not remain on Riel and the Metis who fought and died fighting for basic human rights and democracy.

3. Jean Tiellet stated let the stain remain.

She means the stain on the Government of Canada. What she doesn’t realize is that the stain cuts both ways. It also remains on Riel and the Metis.

In any event, the Metis are also Canadians and, even with its many flaws, they love Canada. Canada should be cleansed of this stain by Exonerating Riel and, in so doing will remove the legal stain from Riel and the Metis.

4. Jean Tiellet stated overtures by the Government to pardon Riel would take the place of real action.

By using the term “pardon”, she indicates a total lack of awareness of the night and day difference between pardon and exoneration.

Dictionary definitions make clear that pardon is forgiveness for a crime committed or a wrong done, it is mercy and clemency.

Exoneration is NONE of these things. It is a Declaration that there was no crime in the first place.

The book “The Trial of Louis Riel, Justice and Mercy Denied” conclusively proved (with incontrovertible archival and other independent sources) the injustices, unfairness and illegality of Riel’s trial at the highest levels, and that he should not have been charged and convicted of High Treason.

5. David Chartrand stated he has participated with the Riel family for many years in honouring Riel on November 16th.

David Chartrand apparently doesn’t know that the Riel Family (with one notable exception) strongly supported the Exoneration (not pardon) of Louis Riel in a statement it issued some years ago.

6. David Chartrand stated the better role would be to change the way Metis history is taught.

Both Exoneration and better education about the Metis can be pursued at the same time. They are not exclusive.

7. Russell Fayant stated Riel or the Metis do not need exoneration to have a legitimate stamp placed on their cause.

Exoneration would remove the criminal law label from Riel. In any event, we disagreed publicly with some of the views expressed by Russell Fayant when we were on the Riel Symposium Panel in Regina earlier this month. Debates against people whose views are firmly embedded would be an exercise in futility.

Click here to read a summary of the views shared on November 16th.

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