Given a Cree name and twice recognized as an Honorary Métis (Honoré Jaxon II), David Doyle of Powell River is a Canadian Plains Research Fellow and a retired First Nations school principal who has steadfastly sought justice for the Northwest leader Louis Riel through exoneration and reconciliation with Canada and Canadians. Joining with participants from over fifty countries, the long-time Louis Riel activist returned to Havana in January of 2016 for the second UNESCO-sponsored José Marti Project of International Solidarity: With All and for the Good of All. Doyle attended the Havana International Book Fair in 2012 with his video On the Trail of Louis Riel and his book From The Gallows - The Lost Testimony of Louis Riel which he hopes to have republished for a sesquicentennial Canada 150 Edition.

Born in 1947 in Saskatchewan, David (Davy) Doyle has also extensively archived the oral and documented history of the Northwest. He moved to BC in 1972 to attend Simon Fraser University and become a teacher. In 1985 he returned to Saskatchewan to follow the trail of Louis Riel. Searching for Riel's "lost Revolutionary Bill of Rights" across Canada he was able to return the document to the Métis Nation at the first Back to Batoche 1885 - 1985 celebration. In 2000 he was made an "Honourary Métis" for his work in support of Louis Riel. Receiving a fellowship with the Canadian Plains Research Centre, University of Regina, David Doyle recorded the Oral History of the Plains Cree from his mentor and his friend, Sweet Grass First Nation oral historian, Alphonse Little Poplar.

In 1997 Ethnic Press of Summerland, B.C. published his book From the Gallows, The Lost Testimony of Louis Riel. Invited to the XXI International Book Fair in Havana Cuba, 2012, David Doyle, a member of the Canada Cuba Literary Alliance, produced a new updated From the Gallows, trade paperback and e-book for the book fair. In Havana, he was also invited to present a dramatic re-creation of the trial of Louis Riel at UNEAC, the Cuban Writer's Union, as well as speak on the Saskatchewan Cooperative Movement at the IXth Canada Studies Symposium at the University of Havana.

As an educator, David Doyle spent his teaching career working in Special Education and Aboriginal Education in British Columbia. Working in First Nations schools he went on to be a principal in Mount Currie and in Chemainus First Nations. Retiring from teaching he went on to be Manager of Special Programs for Education Yukon in 2010. Returning to BC in 2012 he has been active presenting his video, On the Trail of Louis Riel, and working in support of the British Columbia Métis Federation.

According to David Doyle, "The struggle for independence in Cuba and Canada has taken very divergent but also similar paths, with the Cuban people fighting Spanish colonialism through a series of wars and revolts and the Canadian, Quebecois, Métis and First Nations also involved in revolts against Anglo-Canadian colonialism, but in the end following the British parliamentary system. I relate the career of José Marti to that of Métis leader Louis Riel - in their nineteenth century struggles against colonialism, recognizing that the struggle against colonialism and neo-colonialism remains a common concern of contemporary life in the twenty-first century as seen in the IDLE NO MORE movement and the struggle for Indigenous rights and environmental sustainability in Canada and internationally. My work this year is to introduce the noxious, racist, Doctrine of Discovery - the foundation of colonialism from the era of Christopher Columbus to the present. The racist Doctrine of Discovery remains the foundation of Canadian and American law, and need be repudiated for a new relationship to be established between Aboriginal People and the Canadian state through the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People as signed by the Canadian government in 2010.

"I had the honour to introduce Louis Riel at the XXI International Book Fair in Havana in February 2012 and as a member of the Canada Cuba Literary Alliance (CCLA) I also presented a dramatic recreation of Riel's trial for High Treason at UNEAC, the Cuban Writers and Artists Union and at the University of Havana Canadian Studies Seminar. Returning to Canada from Havana I was inspired to compare the lives and careers of Marti and Riel. These two prominent nineteenth century revolutionaries were contemporaries; remarkable in their youth and principled in their lifelong leadership against colonialism. Both men were men of letters, poets, looking into the universal and cosmic questions of life while leading their people toward independence. Both were concerned with and appalled by American imperialism; 'Manifest Destiny' and the ramifications it had on Indigenous nations and Peoples. Unknown to many Canadians Riel effectively blocked the annexation of the Northwest by U.S. agents during the Red River insurrection in 1869-70. He also led the constitutional agitation and armed resistance against Anglo-Canadian colonialism in Western Canada in 1885. Tried for the crime of 'High Treason' Riel, was 'hanged by the neck until dead' for his work to establish Indigenous Rights and democratic institutions in the Northwest.

Louis Riel was and remains branded as a 'traitor' in Canada today.

"Marti died a hero in the Cuban War of Independence in 1895 and is honoured for his work and beauty of his verse throughout Latin America. These two individuals gave up their lives for their people and both men were far-reaching world personalities providing lessons for the future. It is time to exonerate Louis Riel - the Prophet of the New World."


From the Gallows, an inquiry into the career of Louis Riel, Summerland: Ethnic Pres, 1999 / NorthWest Educational Productions, 2012 $20.00, ISBN 978- 09867767-1-7

Louis Riel: Let Justice Be Done (Ronsdale 2017) $24.95 978-1-55380-496-3

[BCBW 2017] ILMBC2


Louis Riel: Let Justice Be Done

by David Doyle

Vancouver: Ronsdale Press, 2017. $24.95 / 978-1-55380-496-3

Reviewed by Max Hamon


Reviewer Max Hamon calls David Doyle's Louis Riel: Let Justice Be Done "an unambiguous defence of Riel's achievements and a justification of the need to recognize him as a Father of Confederation."

Even some statues of Louis Riel have generated controversy, denial, and removal. A nude statue by John Nugent (1968), to which Nugent was forced to add a burlap cape, stood in Wascana Park in Regina until it was removed from public view in 1991. It is now in storage at the Mackenzie Art Gallery in Regina.

Originally located at the Manitoba legislature, a controversial nude Riel statue (1971) by Marcien Lemay and Etienne Gaboury was moved to the College Universitaire de St. Boniface in 1995 - Ed


Louis Riel wanted a public hearing. In 1885, he gave careful instructions to Father Alexis André about the publication of his own papers. Public vindication was important because he believed in the power of public opinion. As he stated repeatedly to the jurors at his trial in 1885, "my reputation, my liberty, my life, are at your discretion.";

After the verdict of "guilty"; was pronounced and prior to sentencing, the judge asked Riel if he had anything to say. Riel requested a Special Commission of Inquiry to review the "various charges, slanders and lies that dogged him throughout his career."; Denied at the time, David Doyle's Louis Riel: Let Justice Be Done grants that wish by imagining such a commission.

Executed as a traitor by the Canadian government for leading an armed rebellion in 1885, Riel is also recognized as the Father of Manitoba and an advocate for the rights of Indigenous Peoples across Canada. In this era of reconciliation over residential schooling and a growing recognition of the material dispossession and cultural genocide of Indigenous Peoples, returning to and revisiting the career of Louis Riel seems most appropriate.

Based upon years of historical research, Doyle reconstructs Riel's voice through his writings and the research of other historians. Riel's words are drawn from a vast corpus of writing that Doyle is careful to reproduce with accuracy.

The book collapses historical time by holding a Commission of Inquiry as if he were in the present. Through this narrative technique Doyle is also able to incorporate the more recent research by historians of and advocates for Riel.

A playful crossing between the past and the present, the result is an interesting experiment in creative non-fiction: Doyle provides an imaginative inquiry that "provides Riel a present day opportunity to give the testimony he was denied at his trial.";

Doyle's advocacy for his hero shines clear through this book. It is an unambiguous defence of Riel's achievements and a justification of the need to recognize him as a Father of Confederation.

The subtitle, Let Justice be Done, makes it clear that this is a clarion call for the righting of past wrongs and a rallying of knowledge to rectify injustice. Doyle sets out to give Riel the last word. Riel, as reconstructed by Doyle, refuses to recognise those who, "for political or racial reasons have purposely slandered me and my career.";

The inquiry is based on six questions: whether he rebelled against legitimate authority in Manitoba in 1869-70; whether he murdered the Ontarian, Thomas Scott; whether he solicited bribes; whether he pillaged the Hudson's Bay Company's Fort Garry; whether he was a fugitive from justice; whether Riel was guilty of the crime of high treason in Saskatchewan in 1885.

From this organizing principle, the first section of the book provides an almost blow-by blow account of the trial and reviews problems and issues that stemmed from this politically motivated show-trial.

The second section examines Riel's earlier career and his involvement in the Red River Resistance in 1869-70 and the Manitoba Act that followed. The third section examines the issues surrounding the delay of the promised amnesty after the Red River Resistance.

The final section retells the story of the Northwest uprising that culminated in the battle of Batoche.

The book concludes by summarizing the findings of the inquiry and calling for the Canadian government to revoke all charges and recognize Riel as a Father of Confederation.

For this reader, undoubtedly the most interesting section of the book is the third, on the amnesty. In 1873, Riel returned to Quebec to present his case to the Canadian Parliament and was subsequently expelled due to the political machinations of Conservatives from Ontario and the powerful Orange Order.

Readers will learn of Riel's surprising success in gaining an amnesty for his people even while he himself was exiled. It should be noted that Doyle could have done more with Riel's own efforts to publish his version of events in Quebec during this period. For instance, Riel's L'Amnistie: Mémoire sur les causes des troubles du Nord-Ouest et sur les négotiations qui ont amené leur règlement amiable was published by the Nouveau Monde, published in February 1874, was widely reprinted. Riel was energetic in the French Canadian public sphere because he sought to use public opinion in Quebec to serve his interests.

Historians will quibble about the lack of references and bibliography, but Riel's career is very well covered by academics who have long argued over this issue. Doyle's book is refreshing in its clarity and straightforward sense of purpose.

A more interesting question is whether Doyle has been effective. Does his reconstruction of Riel's voice appear to us as authentic? Does this experiment in creative non-fiction succeed? Phrases taken from Riel's own writing are frequently used to good effect. Jarring phrases, for instance the use of words like "genocide,"; "hegemony"; and "colonisation,"; are either not present in Riel's own writing or carry a different meaning.

However, poetic license is fundamental to Doyle's project and is used appropriately to illustrate the larger argument. In fact, were Riel speaking to us today one is tempted to conclude that he would have used the words that Doyle puts into his mouth - indeed perhaps, as has been claimed, he was born 200 hundred years too early!

At times the caricatures are too black and white, and if more characters had been introduced into the Commission's inquiry, a more comprehensive picture would have emerged. However, it is clear that Doyle's work is the result of a lifetime of research, learning, activism, and advocacy. For his dedication to this cause, above all, this work merits attention and praise.

Doyle's writing is clear and the book is well edited. I read its 200 pages at a single sitting. As a reader, I found it stimulating and captivating, and I am sure other readers will find it rewarding and enlightening. The book's sixteen full-page photographs and two maps help situate the characters and the geography of Riel's career.

In sum, Louis Riel: Let Justice Be Done is a high calibre production and a welcome contribution to the continuing interpretation of this most remarkable Canadian.


Michael "Max"; Hamon competed his PhD at McGill University in October 2017. His dissertation "The Many Lives of Louis Riel: A Political Odyssey from Red River to Montreal and back, 1840-1875"; is a socio-political study of the first half of Riel's life. He has published a new manuscript by Riel in the Canadian Historical Review. Hamon also lectures on British North America and the History of Montreal at McGill University. He has also taught at the University of Prince Edward Island.