Apology for historic injustices against Métis People issued by Toronto Mayor John Tory:
The City of Toronto is committed to advancing truth, justice and reconciliation with First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples. Canada has learned from the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, as well as other inquiries that reconciliation cannot be achieved without first addressing the hard truths of our past.
One of the guiding principles of the TRC is that “healing relationships requires public truth sharing, apology, and commemoration that acknowledge and redress past harms.” One such truth that has been largely overlooked for more than 100 years is the City of Toronto’s role in the Northwest Resistance of 1885, in what is now the province of Saskatchewan.
To begin, let me provide a historical snapshot of Toronto in the late 1800s as it was a far different city than it is today. Toronto had a population of around 100,000 people. Ninety-three per cent of its residents were British and 85 per cent were Protestant. Meanwhile, thousands of kilometres away, the Métis, led by Louis Riel, were fighting for rights to their land following an influx of white settlers and a decline in bison that threatened their way of life and their very survival. The media coverage of the time regularly described the Métis as “wild”, “miserable” and “impulsive halfbreeds” and labelled the resistance a “rebellion.” On March 30, 1885, local newspaper the Toronto World, exclaimed, “War, war, war was the cry, and war it will be till Mr. Riel and his followers bite the dust.” Not long after, the Queen’s Own Rifles and Royal Grenadiers, who were based in Toronto, sent hundreds of volunteer militia to join Canada’s efforts to suppress the Northwest Resistance.
Today, I apologize for the role the City of Toronto played in contributing to militarized action against Métis people. The City of Toronto financially contributed to the Northwest Resistance by providing supplies to the militia troops. they returned claiming victory, the City of Toronto organized and funded a grand parade to celebrate. At the event, the mayor, surrounded by City Council, made a speech honouring the troops. On July 24, 1885, the Toronto World reported about the event: “Over one hundred thousand people yesterday joined in the warmest welcome that was ever given in this fair dominion to citizen soldiers who had served their country in suppressing armed rebellion. The oldest and youngest inhabitants agreed for once that it was the greatest day Toronto ever witnessed.” The mayor hosted the first Monument Committee meeting at City Hall to begin working on a statue to commemorate the soldiers. That committee disbanded and, when another group took up the cause years later, the City of Toronto financially contributed to the monument that is still standing in Toronto today. All of these actions by the City of Toronto – funding, celebrating and commemorating the quashing of the Northwest Resistance – contributed to the overall milieu of hostility towards the Métis. For this, on behalf of Toronto City Council, I wholeheartedly apologize.
The defeat of the Northwest Resistance and the hanging of Louis Riel on November 16, 1885 were the backdrop for a peak of hostility, racism, and colonial violence towards the Métis. In Toronto and across the country, Métis were forced to hide their identities for fear of reprisal. As a result, the Métis became “the forgotten people.” I have heard when listening to community in Toronto that this legacy of oppression continues to have long-term ramifications on the culture, health and well-being of Métis people that will require hard work and redress going forward.
An apology is nothing without action. This year, the City of Toronto adopted its first Reconciliation Action Plan. It includes many strategies to enhance relationships with the Indigenous community in Toronto. As part of the plan, the City commits to working together with the Toronto and York Region Métis Council to develop educational programs and commemorative initiatives that further explain the history behind this apology and educate all residents of and visitors to Toronto.
We value the contributions that the Council makes, in partnership with many other Indigenous organizations, to support the urban Indigenous community and in challenging the City to better respond to the rights of First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples in Toronto. I hope that apologizing for the role that the City of Toronto and Toronto City Council played in the Northwest Resistance will help the Métis heal from the injustices of the past, honour the sacrifices of their ancestors, and contribute to the pride of Métis culture and identity for future generations.
Mayor of Toronto