Ethnicity and the Canadianization of Red River politics

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Swan, Ruth Ellen.
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The first decade of Manitoba's existence after Confederation saw the political interaction of a number of different ethnic groups who were vying for power under the new regime. Each group had its own ideology and agenda, but each, because of its position in the social hierarchy, used different strategies to achieve its goals. Because of the division of population, no one group controlled the Legislature, but engaged in alliances to form a majority government. The difficulty in overcoming ethnic hostilities after Confederation was compounded by the fact that the federal government delayed the implementation of responsible government in Manitoba. Furthermore, it retained control of public lands and economic development through the Manitoba Act. As a result, the provincial cabinet operated at a disadvantage not experienced by the older provinces in Canada. This work originally began as a biography of the Hon. R.A Davis (1984-78), second Premier of Manitoba. The lack of documentary collections of political papers made it difficult to write a well-rounded biography. As a result, I decided to produce a social history which would compare the experience of the different ethno-cultural groups and analyze the issues that concerned them. The present work involves a comparison of articles and editorials in Le Metis and the Free Press, the major sources used. The views of these two papers provided such a different perspective on events in Red River during the first decade of Manitoba's provincial history that it was possible to separate the competing ideologies of the different groups. Politics became the vehicle, rather than the focus, for analyzing the process of "Canadianization". In addition, this study examines the reasons that the Metis lost their land in Manitoba. There is debate in the literature as to whether the departure of the Metis was voluntary or whether they were forced to leave because of the policies of the Dominion Government. A study of the interrelationships of the ethnic groups in the Manitoba Legislature from 1873- 78 helps to understand how the Metis and French Canadians suffered from minority disadvantage. By analyzing the social hierarchy and power structure, it is obvious that the Metis had few options, but resisted the loss of their land mainly outside the Legislature...