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Was Louis Riel insane?

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by

Kerri Martin

on 27 September 2016

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Transcript of Was Louis Riel insane?

Riel had also publicly announced that he considered himself to be a prophet from God sent to help the Métis people, and argued that the seat of the Catholic Church should be moved from the Vatican to Canada.
Throughout the trial, he continued to insist on his sanity.

"I suppose that after having been condemned, I will cease to be called a fool and for me it is a great advantage. ...I have a mission, I cannot fulfill my mission as long as I am looked upon as an insane being ... If I am guilty of high treason I say that I am a prophet of the new world. "
Riel Speaks to the Jury
The Trial
Rather than holding the trial in Manitoba, where the jury could be made up of people sympathetic to Riel, it is moved to Regina.

The jury is made up of English-speaking, white, Protestant men. English Canadians had a negative view of Riel due to the execution of Thomas Scott after the Red River Resistance in 1870.


The Diary
While in exile in Montana following the Red River Rebellion in Manitoba, Riel began keeping a diary. He spends a lot of time documenting messages that he is receiving from God...
Historical Event & Scene Under Investigation
In 1885, Louis Riel is arrested and charged with high treason (although his at this time, an American citizen).
His lawyers recommend pleading not guilty by reason of insanity.
Riel refuses, but pleads not guilty.
Was Louis Riel insane?
Riel's lawyers defended him as if he were insane, bringing up the fact that he had spent time in asylums in the 1870s.
Riel was worried that an insanity defense would discredit the Métis grievances with the Canadian government.
When he is finally allowed to speak in his own defense, the jury remarked that he was "respectful, entertaining...and
PERFECTLY SANE
."
After 4 hours of deliberation, the jury finds Riel guilty.
They ask the judge to show mercy and not give Riel the death penalty.
On August 3, 1885, the judge sentences Riel to death.
Courthouse in Regina
Riel is hanged on November 16, 1885, in Regina.
A piece of the rope used to hang Riel
Was Riel Insane?
Though we will never know for sure, there is definitely enough evidence to argue Riel's insanity.

However, he was clear in his goal of defending the rights of the Métis people in Canda.
Full transcript