Louis Riel was an exceptional activist in Canada’s settlement and confederation history who advocated for the rights of the Métis and other First Nations people. He stands out not only as a revolutionary, but as a powerful and successful non-European advocate for the rights and liberties of the Métis in a racially ignorant era. He successfully fought for and enshrined Métis rights in the Canadian confederation legislature.
Riel was bicultural, a child of French and Métis parents. His experience inhabiting two cultures drove and informed his life as an activist and political leader. He was fervently proud of his Métis heritage and used his knowledge, experience, and respect within European institutions to integrate his culture's rights during the formation of the nation’s governing legislation.
Louis Riel (1844 - 1885)
Early Life and Guiding Principles
Riel adopted the causes of his father Louis Riel Sr., who organized against the Hudson Bay Company's monopoly on trade in the Red River region. Riel Sr. put his son under the education of the Roman Catholic Church, which aligned with the family’s devout religiosity. While originally on route to priesthood, his father’s death drove Riel Jr. from the church and into politics. Though often portrayed as the father of multiculturalism, Riel was highly critical of the assimilation that was intrinsically linked to a multiculturalist agenda.