On March 14, 1870, a full 10 days after the execution of Thomas Scott by Louis Rie's Métis band, a member asked Sir George Cartier the following question:

Joseph Dufresne (Montcalm): Have any dispatches been received by the government in relation to the recent troubles at Fort Garry? Can the government inform the House of whether there has been any blood shed or loss of life?

The Honorable Sir George-E. Cartier (Montreal East): The government has received no information that there has been any blood shed or loss of life.

Without telegraph lines or rail service, the full fury of the violent actions of the Red River Rebellion had yet to hit the nation's capital. On March 26, the Toronto Globe published an eyewitness account of the murder.

Armed with the Globe story, Liberal-Conservative Edward Blake insisted, on March 29, that the Perime Minister Macdonald give an explanation to the House.

The Right Honorable Sir John A. Macdonald (Kingston City): I have received a private telegram from a gentleman at St. Paul's, informing me that a person named Scott had been shot by a provisional government. What foundation there is for this report, I do not know.

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Within days, it was obvious that the young, fragile, bilingual and bi-cultural fabric of Canada was to be challenged like never before. For Macdonald, the sudden magnitude of events came as a complete surprise. The North West dossier had been the responsibility of Cartier, the deputy prime minister. Cartier erroneously believed that all was well in the Red River and had failed to alarm his cabinet colleagues. The ease with which the North West bill had carried through the House during the previous session contributed to inspiring the confidence of the government.

Meanwhile, back at Fort Garry, Riel and his gang had passed the point of no return. On April 4, 1870, the daily newspapers again reported on the execution of Thomas Scott just as Macdonald himself finally began receiving official state intelligence reports.

Alexander Mackenzie (Lambton): Mr. Speaker, before the Orders of the Day are called, I would like to ask the leader of the government whether he is prepared to place any information before the House regarding the recent events in Red River territory.

We already have the painful accounts in the public newspapers of an atrocious murder being committed, by men, ruffians I might say, who are at the heart of forces there, that calls for the most extraordinary exertions on the part of our government. What security have we in this country that others of our fellow subjects shall not be murdered as well as poor Scott?

I think the government is bound to place before us all information in their power to obtain, and while the honorable gentleman is replying, I would like him to state if in the special instructions given to the parties sent by the government to that country, if power was given them to negotiate with regard to the prisoners, if parties have been imprisoned there for their loyalty to the British Crown, and if so, our government ought to take the strongest possible measures in order to ensure the safety of these prisoners' lives.

Mr. Macdonald: With respect to this first point referred to by the member for Lambton, the government as yet has no written report on the subject; but Mr. Smith who went to that country as a special commissioner, on behalf of the Canadian government, arrived here on Saturday afternoon and left the same day to be with his family over Sunday and will be here tomorrow morning. On his return he will prepare a report of all the circumstances connected with this deplorable affair.

There can be no doubt of the murder, though I hoped against hope, that the rumor of his death was erroneous. So many rumors from that country have been proved to be untrue. There can be no doubt that this man after the sentence by court martial, was shot in pursuance of some sentence of this self-constituted court martial.


The debate over the government's handling of the Manitoba crisis continued unabated for a full month. It was a warring time, both in the new territory and in the House of Commons.

Prime Minister Macdonald fared as best he could in the battle to placate the Métis, and to still satisfy members' thirst for information. It was a struggle in which Canada's first prime minister almost left his own life.