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The Colonization Of Western Canada Essay

1244 words - 5 pages

By the mid 19th century, Canada was taking its first steps as a new colony in the British Empire. The Canadian government was faced with several challenges at the time, John A. MacDonald, the Prime Minister, had a plan to ensure that the Dominion of Canada's first century was a successful one. A major component of this plan was the establishment of a stable population in the West who worked the lands to create a strong agricultural economy. This agenda was not without its obstacles and conflict, but eventually, by the 1900's, the goal was essentially achieved.

The government took several steps to prepare for immigrants in the west, for the size of a population that they wanted, a certain infrastructure was needed. In 1870 they begin buying rights to the land from the Hudson Bay Company, at the same time Britain handed the rights to much of the land to the colony. Between 1871 and 1877 the government negotiated several treaties (called the Numbered Treaties, 1-7) with the aboriginal and Métis peoples who populated the area. They created an infrastructure of laws and created the RCMP to police the area. In 1872 with the Dominion Lands Act, colonists could buy 160 acres for 10$, of which they retained full possession if they occupied the land for 3 years. They also kept some of the territories to sell at full price or use for other projects; for example, when Canadian Pacific built the railroad in 1885, the government gave them 10.4 million hectares, on top of paying them 63 500 000$ for their work and lending the company 35 000 000$.

It was during this time that the first obstacles to the government's progress first surfaced. The Métis people began to fear for their culture, rights and their lands as colonists started to inhabit the area. Not really getting attention from the government, they first rebelled (more on a political level than anything) in June 1869 to attempt negotiation on the protection of their rights. They managed to get language, cultural and educational rights, but the threat from the colonists still persisted; so on the 11th of October 1869, the Métis, lead by Louis Riel pushed the colonists back. They then form a provisionary government, and by the second week in November, they take over Fort Garry in Winnipeg. Essentially, they want guarantees to their territory, a responsible government and equal language rights. The government meets these demands in April 1870 with the creation of Manitoba; a province for the Métis, allowing them to have their territory, government and language rights.

This solution works for about 15 years, but the Métis are still being pushed back from their territories, so under the direction of Louis Riel, they petition Ottawa. The group demands better treatment of Indians, land for the Métis, a government for the North-West territories and a railroad. A commission is put in place, but Riel feels it is taking too long, so he installs his own illegal provisionary...

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