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Declaration of the People of Rupert's Land and the North-West

Manitoba Pageant, April 1964, Volume 9, Number 3

This article was published originally in Manitoba Pageant by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make this online version available as a free, public service. As an historical document, the article may contain language and views that are no longer in common use and may be culturally sensitive in nature.

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Proclamation by the Provisional Government, Dec. 8, 1869.

Whereas, it is admitted by all men, as a fundamental principle, that the public authority commands the obedience and respect of its subjects. It is also admitted, that a people, when it has no Government, is free to adopt one form of Government, in preference to another, to give or to refuse allegiance to that which is proposed. In accordance with the above first principle the people of this country had obeyed and respected the authority to which the circumstances which surrounded its infancy compelled it to be subject.

A company of adventurers known as the "Hudson Bay Company," and invested with certain powers, granted by His Majesty (Charles II), established itself in Rupert's Land, and in the North-West Territory, for trading purposes only. This Company, consisting of many persons, required a certain constitution. But as there was a question of commerce only, their constitution was framed in reference thereto. Yet, since there was at that time no Government to see to the interest of a people already existing in the country, it became necessary for judicial affairs to have recourse to the officers of the Hudson Bay Company. This inaugurated that species of government which, slightly modified by subsequent circumstances, ruled this country up to recent date.

Whereas, that Government, thus accepted, was far from answering to the wants of the people, and became more and more so, as the population increased in numbers, and as the country was developed, and commerce extended, until the present day, when it commands a place amongst the colonies; and this people, ever actuated by the above-mentioned principles, had generously supported the aforesaid Government, and gave to it a faithful allegiance, when, contrary to the law of nations, in March, 1869, that said Government surrendered and transferred to Canada all the rights which it had, or pretended to have, in this Territory, by transactions with which the people were considered unworthy to be made acquainted.

And, whereas, it is also generally admitted that a people is at liberty to establish any form of government it may consider suited to its wants, as soon as the power to which it was subject abandons it, or attempts to subjugate it, without its consent to a foreign power; and maintain that no right can be transferred to such foreign power. Now, therefore, first, we, the representatives of the people, in Council assembled in Upper Fort Garry, on the 24th day of November, 1869, after having invoked the God of Nations, relying on these fundamental moral principles, solemnly declare, in the name of our constituents, and in our own names, before God and man, that, from the day on which the Government we had always respected abandoned us, by transferring to a strange power the sacred authority confided to it, the people of Rupert's Land and the North-West became free and exempt from all allegiance to the said Government. Second. That we refuse to recognize the authority of Canada, which pretends to have a right to coerce us, and impose upon us a despotic form of government still more contrary to our rights and interests as British subjects, than was that Government to which we had subjected our-selves, through necessity up to recent date. Thirdly. That, by sending an expedition on the 1st November, ult., charged to drive back Mr. William McDougall and his companions, coming in the name of Canada, to rule us with the rod of despotism, without previous notification to that effect, we have acted conformably to that sacred right which commands every citizen to offer energetic opposition to pre-vent this country from being enslaved. Fourth. That we continue, and shall continue, to oppose, with all our strength, the establishing of the 'Canadian authority in our country, under the announced form; and, in case of persistence on the part of the Canadian Government to enforce its obnoxious policy upon us by force of arms, we protest before-hand against such an unjust and unlawful course; and we declare the said Canadian Government responsible, before God and men, for the innumerable evils which may be caused by so unwarrantable a course. Be it known, therefore, to the world in general and to the Canadian Government in particular, that, as we have always heretofore successfully defended our country in frequent wars with the neighbouring tribes of Indians, who are now on friendly relations with us, we are firmly resolved in future, not less than in the past, to repel all invasions from whatsoever quarter they may come; and, further more, we do declare and proclaim, in the name of the people of Rupert's Land and the North-West, that we have, on the said 24th day of November, 1869, above mentioned, established a Provisional Government, and hold it to be the only and lawful authority now in existence in Rupert's Land and the North-West which claims the obedience and respect of the people; that, meanwhile, we hold our-selves in readiness to enter in such negotiations with the Canadian Government as may be favourable for the good government and prosperity of this people. In support of this declaration, relying on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge ourselves, on oath, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor, to each other.

Issued at Fort Garry, this Eighth day of December, in the year of our Lord, One thousand eight hundred and sixty-nine.

John Bruce, Pres. Louis Riel, Sec.

Page revised: 1 July 2009

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