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Alternate History

Riel's Canada

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Background

The territory of the Hudson Bay's Company, known as Rupert's Land, was a massive amount of land that composed of all land that drained into the Hudson's Bay, granted to the fur trading company by King Charles II on 1670. However, up until the early 19th century, the only inhabitants of this land, equaling 3.9 million sq km (1.5 million sq mi) being the Native American's who lived off the land for generations, and the few rugged European's who traversed the land in the search of valuable furs.
Ruperts land

Rupert's Land at it's greatest extent.

In 1811, Thomas Douglas, 5th Earl of Selkirk, who received a grant of land from the Hudson's Bay Company, sent an expedition of Scottish settlers to the area where the Red and the Assiniboine River's joined called Assiniboia, and established Fort Douglas in 1812, which in OTL became Winnipeg. Despite hostility with the HBC's rival the North Western Company, which resulted in the Pemmican Wars, the colony began to grow. Although most of this grant was turned over to the United States in 1818, the small outpost was beginning to prosper. The colony was not agriculturally successful, but the promise of free land continued to bring in new settlers. By the 1860's, the majority of the resident's of the colony was Metis, the decedent's of French fur trappers and their Indian wives, and, despite the presence of Scottish Presbyterians, the population was primarily French and Roman Catholic. And then the small farming community was turned upside down in 1869.

In 1869, the new Dominion of Canada, barely two years old, set its sights on expanding west. After the attempt by the United States to annex British Columbia, Assiniboia and Nova Scotia because of the British support for the Confederacy in the Civil War, the area of Rupert's Land was seen by many English-Canadians as the perfect place to expand. In 1869, the Hudson's Bay Company sold Rupert's Land to Canada, with Ottawa taking over administration of the land on December 1.

Selkirks land grant (Assiniboia)

The Selkirk Land Grant.

In an effort to prepare the land, the government appointed an English-speaking governor, William McDougall, who was a known Anti-Francophone, and dispatched surveying teams to prepare the land for Ontarian and European settlers. The Metis and resident's of Assiniboia were outraged, and under the leadership of Louis Riel, formed a Provisional Government, and actively prevented McDougall or the surveying teams to enter the area until negotiations between the Provisional Government and Canada took place. Riel outlined his 14 points to which the Metis would accept to become part of Canada, and the majority of the Anglophobe residents, mostly Ontarian's and Americans agreed. However, a small minority of English-Canadians disagreed, and began to oppose the Provisional Government, which the Metis and French were working to be more representative, allowing English members in as well. Riel ordered them to be arrested, and imprisoned in Fort Gary on December 8. However, several escaped in January, and one, Thomas Scott, threatened to kill Riel and do whatever it took to make sure Assiniboia joined Canada. Scott was tried for treason, and was set to be executed.

Point of Divergence

During this time, Riel and the Canadian government were beginning negotiations, and Riel knew that killing Scott would anger Ontario, so he personally ordered Scott to not be executed. With this crisis averted, Riel returned to negotiations, but the Canadian representatives did have the power to accept the Metis' demands, which they even said were reasonable such as protection of French rights, Roman Catholicism and a bilingual head of government. When they left to return to Ottawa, Riel decided to take his case directly to Great Britain. By this time, the locals knew that if Canada took over, they could be forced from their lands, as no one held definite proof they owned their farms. Many were calling instead for a creation of a new nation, another Dominion under Great Britain, which Riel supported.

Louis Riel

Louis Riel, First Prime Minister of Assiniboia

Louis Riel, traveling through the US, set sail from Boston in April, while the Canadian Government continued to stall, unaware until Riel was at sea that Assiniboia did not really want to join Canada. Prime Minister John A. Macdonald was stunned, and he sent a representative to London to hopefully talk Riel into joining Canada. But he did not arrive in time, and Riel, having a meeting with Queen Victoria, outlined his proposal for the Dominion of Assiniboia, much like Canada, but with more representative's of the people. Victoria, impressed by Riel's plan, gave her approval. When Macdonald found out in May, he tried to convince the British that Canada should expand into Assiniboia, but his calls fell on deaf years, mostly because the people of the area supported the creation of a new nation, and not to join Canada.

On September 4, 1870, the British Parliament passed the Dominion of Assiniboia Act, which gave the people of "the territory of Assiniboia" the rights to form their own government. When Riel returned to Fort Gary, a Confederation Commission was established, which wrote a new constitution for the Dominion of Assiniboia. On March 15, 1870, the Dominion of Assiniboia was established, with Riel named the first Prime Minister.


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