Louis Riel – The Orange Order and the Family Compact Connection

BC Métis Federation continues to provide historic facts on our social media facebook page.  Today we encourage our members and friends to check out the latest edition.

Anti-democratic, anti-reforming and anti-treaty forces have persisted in various forms within the higher corridors of power.

At his trial in 1885, Louis Riel found himself up against Christopher Robinson, who was the prosecuting attorney. Christopher Robinson was the son of John Beverley Robinson, who was a member of the Orange Order of Canada and a leading member of the Family Compact.

The Orange Order was a Protestant association originally founded in 1795 in Ireland to commemorate the victory of William of Orange at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. Orangemen brought the association with them to Canada, founding the first lodge in 1830 in Upper Canada. Prominent Orangemen included John A Macdonald.

The family Compact was a small group of conservative families who dominated business and government in Upper Canada in the 1820s and 30s. They opposed the idea of having an elected Assembly and felt that they were superior to the rest of the masses and power should rest with them.

During the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837, John Beverly Robinson served as aide-de-camp to Sir Francis Bond Head, who was opposed to indigenous treaty rights. In 1836 as example. , Head made moves to end the tradition of British gift giving to those Aboriginals covered in theTreaty of Niagara, 1764, amongst other racist actions. The principles of co-existence in this treaty were supposed to guide Westward settlement.

The Orangeman, for their part, were opposed to Riel and Métis grievances. In 1870, Riel and the Métis provisional government executed a vocal opponent, Thomas Scott, who was both an Orangemen and an Irishman.

During the 1869-70 Red River Resistance the Orange Order helped provoke the reaction against Métis, Catholics and French which swept Ontario. In spite of this opposition, Macdonald, an Orangeman, signed the Manitoba Act, what Riel later regarded as a negotiated treaty between Metis and Canada.

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