Wilfrid Laurier: Speech in Defence of Louis Riel, 1874
The 1869 Métis uprising in Red River had deeply divided Canadians along religious and linguistic lines. Five years later, the election of Louis Riel as a member of Parliament (MP) prompted a debate about whether the House of Commons should allow Riel to take up his seat there. Wilfrid Laurier — by this time a federal MP in the new Liberal government of Alexander Mackenzie — stood firmly on Riel’s side. Laurier had little personal sympathy for Riel. Politically, however, he used Riel and the Métis cause as a way of staking out the moderation and pragmatism that would become a hallmark his career. On 15 April 1874, he issued this stirring defence of Riel in the House of Commons.