To understand a nation you should know its history. Once you start digging through the past it will be inevitable meeting people fighting for all the great things, which as Winston Churchill once said “are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope”. Unfortunately the path to achieve this greatness often passes through slavery, injustice, dishonor, cruelty, despair and death. That is clearly expressed in the story of Marie-Joseph Angélique, one of the biggest mysteries and Louis Riel, one of the biggest heroes in Canadian history.
To appraise the fairness of the trials of Marie Joseph Angélique and Louis Riel we need to understand ...view middle of the document...
In the following essay I will use the criteria mentioned above to account for similarities and differences between the two episodes.
Angélique lived in society less social than the one we know today and much more hostile. The Sovereign Council of New France was a political body appointed by the King of France and consisted of a Governor General, an intendant and a bishop of the Roman Catholic Church. All were answering to the French Minister of the Marine. The members of the council were chosen as part of the French nobility. The administration of justice was the responsibility of the intendant and followed the inquisitorial method. What that meant was that guilt was presumed until the accused could prove innocence. Trials lasted until the justice presiding decided that enough evidence had been heard to pass judgment. The system was relatively cheap, efficient and quick, with judgments and sentences sometimes being carried out the same day.
One hundred and fifty years later the society in which Louis Riel lived was quite hostile as well, but with different structure. At the late 19th century Canada had establish itself as a country with its own government and judicial system identical to the one in England. In the North West Territories, where the Riel drama took place, justice was served by a stipendiary magistrate who held office at the pleasure of the federal government, and could be dismissed without cause at any time .
These preliminary facts show that the chain of events that led to the ultimate punishment of the two souls were very different and yet similar. Angélique’s trial and outcome was dictated by the social forces of its time. Contrary, the trial of Riel was a political one. To drift the two trials further away from one another it has to be considered the accusations made against Louis Riel and Marie Joseph Angélique. The trial of Louis Riel portrays the political, judicial and legal misdeeds which resulted in unmerciful and unjust execution. He ultimately lost his life in an unfair trial for treason, but he was courageous man who defied the political establishment to stand up for the rights of ordinary people. In contrast, the story of Angélique even today 277 years later is still unknown. The question “Did Angélique burn Montréal?” hangs without answer, which makes it one of the greatest mysteries of the Canadian history. We know that she was black, woman, and slave. We know that the relationship between slaves and slave masters at that time was difficult. We know that she was quite rebellious. What we don’t know is if she really started the fire. Scholars and academic have tried to disperse the ambiguity of her account unfortunately unsuccessful.
In 2004 Beaugrand-Champagne sets out to present the documents in detail, to question the court proceedings and to present all the possible culprits. She concludes that the fire was most likely accidental, the result of poorly cleaned chimneys and a cook fire...