During a debate in the House of Commons, July 20, 1886, Min. Joseph Royal, Lieutenant Governor of the Northwest Territories and M.P. of the Canadian Parliament for Provencher, argued on behalf of the Metis and outlined the injustice that they faced from 1869 until the 1885 uprisings. He admonished the house for the theft of half-breed lands and scrip, the ignoring of the Metis as a distinct people with distinct rights, and the general exodus of many Metis to places such as Turtle Mountain (in North Dakota), Duck Lake, Qu'Appelle, Battleford and St. Albert, and the disappearance of the population at Wood Mountain who fled into Montana following the defeat at Batoche.
A portion of his speech is as follows:
I believe those immediate causes were aggravated to a large extent by the shameful speculation that was carried on at the expense of the half-breeds in the years following 1870. By the Manitoba Act a certain reserve had been set out for the extinguishment of the Indian title in favor of the people of that part of the country. In fact, the half-breeds under that Act were recognized as a distinct people, having distinct privileges and rights, which the Government of Canada had to deal with and settle. And let me here say that with respect of North-West grievances, there are three causes of the grievances in connection with the North-West affairs. There are letters and petitions addressed to the Government by the people, both of Manitoba and the North West Territories. Those letters and petitions have been read and commented upon at great length by some hon. gentlemen opposite, more especially by the leader of the Opposition. Then we have the resolutions and Bills of Rights proposed by Riel and his white Grit followers at Prince Albert and elsewhere; and the resolutions proposed at the Moosomin and Calgary meetings, and they form a distinct part of the grievances.
The third class of grievances is composed of the grievances of the Opposition, and I believe they are the only grievances with which to deal in the settlement of this question. Under the Manitoba Act as stated the half-breeds wore entitled to have a certain lot of land for the extinguishment of the Indian title. A reserve, comprising 1,400,000 acres of land, was set apart for the purpose. But long were the delays. It is not my intention to make more of those details than should be made of them. And so long were the delays in the apportionment of those reserves, and so protracted the issue of letters patent, that the people became doubtful of the good faith of the Government, and were easily induced by speculators to sell their rights to the land. They were canvassed by those speculators, who informed them that it would take many years to get possession of their 240 acres; that the Government did not desire that they should get possession of them; and other arguments of that kind were used.
I suppose hon. gentlemen opposite know something about that, for I believe that some of them and some of their friends own several thousand acres of these reserves. I presume that at one time 240 acres of half-breed claims were actually purchased for 5, 6, 7 and 8 pounds, and those prices prevailed during the Administration of hon. gentlemen opposite. The result was that the half-breeds lost confidence in Canadian laws and Canadian promises, and were easily induced to part with their reservations for a mere trifle. In fact, at the present day, I do not suppose that one-twentieth of these reserves remain in the hands of the original owners, and that is the reason why we see so many of these reserves in certain parishes lying waste. The result was, that in 1880, 1881 and 1883, a large number of these half-breeds left the Province, some going towards the Turtle Mountain district, in Dakota, and were thus lost to us entirely, others going westward to increase materially the half-breed settlements at Duck Lake, Qu'Appelle, Battleford and St. Albert. It is stated that, of a strong colony which formerly existed at Wood Mountain, only a few remain, the others having gone to the United States. Only a few thousand half-breeds now remain in Manitoba, although their population at the time of the transfer, in 1870, was 12,000 or 13,000.
House of Commons debates (Vol. 4). (1886). Ottawa: Queens Printer.
A collaborative effort of members of the Ojibwe and Metis communities