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The Manitoba Act (French: Loi sur le Manitoba),[1] or simply the Act, is an act of the Parliament of Canada that is defined by the Constitution Act, 1982[2] as forming a part of the Constitution of Canada. The Manitoba Act received royal assent on May 12, 1870. It created the province of Manitoba and continued to enforce An Act for the Temporary Government of Rupert's Land and the North-Western Territories when united with Canada[3] upon the absorption of the British territories of Rupert's Land and the North-Western Territory into Canada on July 15, 1870. The Manitoba Act was created by the Parliament of Canada in response to the Métis' concerns about the provisional government. The Manitoba Act was created with hopes to decrease tension between the Canadian Parliament and the Red River Métis. Many negotiations and uprisings came with this Act, some of which are still not settled today.


Territory transferred to Canada (July 15, 1870)

The Province of Manitoba was previously the area settled by the people of the Red River colony. This area was originally a part of Rupert's Land, which was where the fur traders would do the majority of their hunting and trapping. Rupert's Land was controlled by the Hudson Bay Company, the largest fur trading company of its time. In the late 1860s, the Hudson's Bay Company surrendered the land to the British Crown. This is known as the Rupert's Land Act 1868. This caused severe controversy specifically in the area of the Red River Colony, now known as Manitoba. In the eyes of the British Crown and the Canadian government, the land was seen to be owned by the Hudson Bay Company, even though Indigenous people and Métis people lived there. The Canadian government paid £300,000 for Rupert's land. This is the largest land purchase to date for the Canadian government.[4]

Once the Canadian government claimed the land from the Hudson Bay Company they began to set up Members of Parliament. William McDougall was appointed to be the Lieutenant Governor of Rupert's Land and the North-West Territory in 1869.[5] In September 1869 Lieutenant Governor William McDougall set out to Red River accompanied by many administrative officers.[5] The Métis were not consulted upon these government actions causing a great amount of uproar and distress. Once the Métis became aware of this new found government attempting to control their territory they created a provisional government of their own. Louis Riel became the leader for the Métis people.[6] Riel had good qualities for this role because he had educational experience from his time spent at school training to be a priest and lawyer, even though he never finished his schooling.[6] Riel's ability to speak both French and English was a huge advantage for him and the Métis people because the Red River Colony was a bilingual area.[6] Many of the Métis people did not have the ability to understand all the legal action due to the lack of education and experience.

Rise of the MétisEdit

Louis Riel and his supporters created a provisional government of their own. This time period is known as the Red River Resistance or Rebellion.[4] Riel and the Métis prepared for the arrival of William McDougall and his accompanied administrative officers. Once McDougall and his people arrived at the border of the Red River Colony at the 49th Parallel, they encountered the armed party of the Métis, who denied them entry into the colony by creating a barrier. McDougall did not give up his efforts at that point, he stayed in Pembina for approximately a month's time attempting to control the area.[4] The Métis actions separated the Canadian party due to their barriers, some were captured and held in jail at Fort Garry.[7] On December 16, McDougall gave up his efforts for the time being. The Canadian government created a new expedition in attempts to establish sovereignty and establish a political solution.[7]

The Red River Resistance started out as a nonviolent protest and uprising toward the Canadian government. Riel and his people had occupied Fort Gary. A group of Ontario settlers who were opposed to the Riel uprising set out to the fort. This caused 45 men to be incarcerated in the fort by Riel and his people. While these men were incarcerated a major historical event occurred. A man by the name of Thomas Scott was executed while being held captive at the fort on March 4, 1870. This event is evaluated by many historians because it is argued greatly to why Thomas Scott was executed. The execution of Thomas Scott had a great impact on how the Canadian government and its supporters viewed the Métis. People were so outraged that when Riel was to make appearances at Parliament he did not attend in fear of getting executed himself.[8] Despite the execution, the Canadian government was still working towards sovereignty. The Manitoba Act received the royal assent on May 12, 1870.[1]

The Manitoba Act made the Red River Colony a part of Canada and created the province of Manitoba. Even with the Manitoba Act in place, much work was to be done with the settling of land rights. Before land rights were settled Sir John A. MacDonald convinced the British to send a military expedition to Manitoba, led by Colonel Garnet Wolseley. This Red River Expedition became known as the Wolseley expedition. The government portrayed this expedition as non-punative, however, the militiamen wanted to avenge the death of Thomas Scott. The ensuing chaos and retribution against the Metis population was labelled "The Reign of Terror" by newspapers in eastern Canada and the U.S.A.[9][10] Many Métis fled to Saskatchewan, and Louis Riel fled to the United States at this time.[8]

Métis List of rightsEdit

Métis have traditionally been known to come from the Red River Colony.[11] Metis are people who come from European and Indigenous backgrounds. In areas such of the Red River Colony, many European trappers would marry and have children with the Indigenous women .[11] Métis people have struggled with being identified. Métis people are known to be "self-identified". They are not settlers and they are not fully Indigenous. They are often to be labelled "Mixed Blood" or "half-breeds". Métis are not identified under the Indian Act of Canada causing a great amount of controversy. Throughout the years the definition of Métis have gone through many changes.[11]`In the 1990s there was a separate definition for "Red River Métis". This term was created for individuals whose families' Métis ancestry came from Red River.[11] The Red River Métis were very influential in the creation of the Manitoba Act. They had many rights and requests that they pushed to be fulfilled by the Government of Canada. The following is a list of some of the Red River Métis' demands for the Manitoba Act.

The Métis leaders originally requestedEdit

  1. That the people of the new province have the right to elect their own legislature.
  2. The legislature has the right to pass their own territorial laws and they can reject the Executive vote, by a two-thirds vote.
  3. All Acts of the Canadian parliament must be
  4. All members of authority are to be elected by the people of Manitoba
  5. A "free homestead pre-emption law".
  6. Land must be set aside for the building of schools, roads, bridges and other buildings.
  7. Improvement of transportation, including a railway that connects Winnipeg to other railways and money must be given to improving roads within five years.
  8. The Dominion must pay for the Territory's military and municipal expensive for four years.
  9. The military must be built by people already living in the Territory
  10. Legislation and Public Documents must be published in both English and French
  11. The superior judge must be bilingual
  12. Manitoba must have full and fair representation in the Canadian Government.
  13. Privileges, customs and usages existing at the time of the transfer must be respected.[12]

What the Act guaranteedEdit

In the Métis' favour, the Manitoba Act guaranteed that the Métis would receive the title for the land that they already farmed and in addition they would receive 1,400,000 acres (5,700 km2) of farmland for the use of their children.[8] This land was to be divided up through an application process. The Act also set aside land for the Métis, with each family receiving scrip, a certificate, saying they owned 96 hectares of land, amount to a total of about 560,000 hectares (5,600 km2). The number of applications that the government was going to receive was greatly underestimated. The 1.4 million acres of land was not enough for the number of applications.[8] The Canadian government began giving money for land, the equivalent value of $1 per acre which was the current land value at that time.[8]

Section 31 of the Manitoba Act provided for 1.4 million acres of land to be distributed to the children of the Metis heads of families. It reads in part:

And whereas, it is expedient, towards the extinguishment of the Indian Title to the lands in the Province, to appropriate a portion of such ungranted lands, to the extent of one million four hundred thousand acres thereof, for the benefit of the families of the half-breed residents, it is hereby enacted, that, under regulations to be from time to time made by the Governor General in Council, the Lieutenant-Governor shall select such lots or tracts in such parts of the Province as he may deem expedient, to the extent aforesaid, and divide the same among the children of the half-breed heads of families residing in the Province at the time of the said transfer to Canada, and the same shall be granted to the said children respectively, in such mode and on such conditions as to settlement and otherwise. as the Governor General in Council may from time to time determine.[13]

The Act covered an array of topics. It contained religious and language rights.[8] It allowed the Métis to have rights to have denominational schools. The Act stated that laws had to be written and enforced in both French and English, and to use either English or French in the Legislature of Manitoba and any courts established by either Canada or the Province must use both languages.[8] These legislations within the Act have led to political controversy. Controversies such as the Manitoba Schools Question in the nineteenth century, as denominational school rights were curtailed. The Act also provided for Manitoba to send four members to the House of Commons of Canada and two members to the Senate of Canada.[14]

The May 12, 1870 Manitoba Act covered but not limited to the following topics:[15]

  1. The province of Manitoba is to be formed[15]
  2. Former provisions act shall be applied to Manitoba
  3. Manitoba is to have representation in the House of Commons and the Senate
  4. Qualification of voters and members of the House of Commons
  5. Lieutenant-Governor, Executive Council, Seat of Government.
  6. The process of the first election
  7. Duration of Legislation Assembly[15]
  8. Number of Legislation sessions per year
  9. Legislation of the school curriculum
  10. The uses of English and French
  11. Provincial and National Debt
  12. Shared expenses
  13. Customs Duties and Laws
  14. Indian title
  15. Land titles
  16. Land rights[15]

Controversy of the ActEdit

Since the Manitoba Act was put into action it has been adjusted and under review multiple times. Historian D.N. Sprague notes that the land assigned to the Métis in the Manitoba Act of 1870 was later revised by government laws, which took land away from the Métis.[7] In order to receive scrip for children living or deceased, proof of birth in Manitoba prior to 1871 was required. Proof could be in the form of a baptismal or death certificate from the church, or a letter from an employer such as the Hudson's Bay Company.[7] The legislature also enacted English-only laws were later found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada in the case Reference re Manitoba Language Rights (1985). The Manitoba Act, and Section 31 in particular, was also used in the 2013 Supreme Court case Manitoba Métis Federation v. Canada and Manitoba.[2]

Validity of the Manitoba ActEdit

Following the enactment of the Manitoba Act, questions arose whether the federal Parliament had the constitutional authority to create new provinces by ordinary federal statute. To eliminate any uncertainty on this point, the Imperial Parliament enacted the Constitution Act, 1871, which confirmed that the federal Parliament had the power to establish new provinces and provide for their constitutions.[16]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b originally entitled An Act to amend and continue the Act 32–33 Victoria, chapter 3; and to establish and provide for the Government of the Province of Manitoba, S.C. 1870, c. 3
  2. ^ a b Constitution Act, 1982, s. 52 and Schedule, Item 2.
  3. ^ An Act for the Temporary Government of Rupert's Land and the North-Western Territories when united with Canada, S.C. 1869, c. 3
  4. ^ a b c Galbraith, John S. (1949). "The Hudson's Bay Land Controversy, 1863-1869". The Mississippi Valley Historical Review. 36 (3): 457–478. doi:10.2307/1893017. JSTOR 1893017.
  5. ^ a b Daugherty, Wayne (1983). "Treaty Research Report Treaty One and Treaty Two (1871)". Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.
  6. ^ a b c "Louis Riel". Retrieved March 26, 2018.
  7. ^ a b c d St-onge, Nicole J.M (1985). "The Dissolution of a Metis Community". Studies in Political Economy. 18: 149–172.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Richtik, James M. (1975). "The Policy Framework for Settling the Canadian West 1870-1880". Agricultural History. 49 (4): 613–628. JSTOR 3741487.
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ a b c d Sawchuk, Joe (2001). "Negotiating an Identity: Métis Political Organizations, the Canadian Government, and Competing Concepts of Aboriginality". The American Indian Quarterly. 25 (1): 73–92. doi:10.1353/aiq.2001.0012. ISSN 1534-1828.
  12. ^ Barkwell, Lawrence. "Metis Lists of Rights; The evolution of the list from the first to fourth iteration". SCRIBD.
  13. ^ "Manitoba Commissions: Claims Under Section 31". Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved November 25, 2018.
  14. ^ originally entitled An Act to amend and continue the Act 32–33 Victoria, chapter 3; and to establish and provide for the Government of the Province of Manitoba, S.C. 1870, c. 3
  15. ^ a b c d Affairs, Government of Canada, Department of Justice, Constitutional. "Department of Justice - Final Report of the French Constitutional Drafting Committee". Retrieved March 28, 2018.
  16. ^ Constitution Act, 1871, 34 & 35 Vict. c. 28 (U.K.), s. 2. (Note that the act was originally named the British North America Act, 1871, but was re-named in Canada by the Constitution Act, 1982, s. 53.)

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