Manitoba Act

The Manitoba Act, which received royal assent 12 May 1870 and went into effect 15 July, provided for the admission of Manitoba as Canada's fifth province. It marked, as well, the legislative resolution of the struggle between inhabitants of the Red River Colony and the federal government (see Red River Rebellion). Local anxiety, especially over Métis land rights, had provoked the inhabitants' determination to have a voice in the terms under which the community would be incorporated into Canada. A popularly elected convention, reflecting the settlement's cultural diversity, supported a provisional government dominated by Louis Riel. Four successive lists of rights were drafted by the provisional government; the final version became the basis of federal legislation.

Despite PM Macdonald's reluctance, Manitoba entered Canada as a province, not a territory. English- and French-language rights were safeguarded, as were Protestant and Roman Catholic educational rights; the right to education in either English or French was not protected. The Dominion retained control of natural resources, in particular unallocated land, which was to be sold to support the building of a Pacific railway and to be the magnet for a vast immigration (see Dominion Lands Policy). The new province of Manitoba, severely circumscribed in size, thus entered as a province unlike the original 4, and its creation revealed Ottawa's resolve to control western development.