Montreal City Council has recently passed a resolution in support of exoneration of Louis Riel for Canada's Sesquicentennial. The resolution was sponsored by the Society St Joseph du Manitoba and included a 70 page dossier in support of exoneration.
George and Terry Goulet , elders and advisors of the Friends of Louis Riel, sent us their comments on the discussion of exoneration as against pardon. We are honoured to share their observations here. The comments are in response to an article published in the Saskatchewan Law Review, Vol.67 (2004) by Jean Teillet.
George and Terry are Canadian bestselling authors, public speakers, and historians. George Goulet and Terry Goulet have collaborated on and co-authored a number of books includingThe Trial of Louis Riel: Justice and Mercy Denied, The Métis: Memorable Events and Memorable Personalities, and The Métis in British Columbia from Fur Trade Outposts to Colony. In a 2015 publication of the University of Toronto(where he received his Master of Laws Degree), George Goulet was named one of its distinguished alumni. Terry and George are on the Wikipedia list of "most prominent historians in Canada" (Metis).
Here are their comments:
Dear Friends of Louis Riel:
Here are our observations on Teillet's 2004 paper "Exoneration for Louis Riel: Justice, Mercy, or Political Expediency". They are being sent to you in the order they appear in the article, and have not been prepared as a paper by us.
Page 360/361. Teillet writes :" .... extra-judicial exoneration... generally known in law as clemency"; ".... discusses the political and legal history of clemency".; ".... Exoneration of Louis Riel would be political expediency, not mercy or justice".
The dictionary definitions of "clemency" make clear that it is mercy or leniency, not Exoneration. It does not involve any clemency or mercy whatsoever. Exoneration declares someone innocent of the crime for which he was convicted and reverses the conviction. This is justice for someone wrongfully convicted, not State forgiveness of a wrong done.
Stating that Exoneration equals clemency (mercy) as Teillet does means she does not understand what Exoneration is. This taints all of the arguments she makes relating to Exoneration being clemency. Her paper is fatally flawed in its discussion of Exoneration and, in our view, is of no value in this respect.
Page 363: The Riel family, unlike Teillet, has it right. It wants a Parliamentary Exoneration Bill reversing his conviction. "We will not support any Bill that pardons Louis Riel". The Riel Family obviously knows the night and day difference between exoneration and pardon, whereas Teillet's paper does not.
Page 373: "A pardon is the most discussed method of exoneration for Riel".
Pardon is NOT the most discussed method of Exoneration, because a pardon is the exact opposite of an Exoneration. The most discussed method of Exoneration is by means of a Parliamentary Exoneration Bill. Previous such Bills (all of which have been Private Members Bills of which there have been well over a dozen over the years) never asked for pardon for Riel.
These Bills asked that his 1885 conviction for high treason be reversed and he be declared innocent of the crime. As Private Members Bills, they all died on the Order Paper, except, if memory serves us, for perhaps one from the Bloc Quebecois which was motivated by Bloc politics.
To repeat, pardon involves clemency or mercy, Exoneration involves neither one of them. Teillet then devotes many pages to pardon, all of which are irrelevant to Exoneration and are a waste of paper as far as Exoneration is concerned. Adorning "pardon" in legal authorities may look good, but it does not make it Exoneration. One cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.
page 376. Teillet again talks about "mercy" and 'clemency". This is Irrelevant to Exoneration.
page 380/381 In referring to a Supreme Court of Canada case, Teillet refers to posthumous exonerations in the United States referring to them as pardons. She states that public welfare, not the wishes of the Riel family or the Metis, is the guiding principal for a "posthumous pardon for Louis Riel".
Teillet is confused. Within her own paper she writes that the Riel family specifically stated that it would not support a pardon. It wants Exoneration. The Riel Family absolutely did not want a "posthumous pardon for Louis Riel."
Page 383 and 386: Section on page 383 is titled "Pardon as Political Expediency". Page 386 She writes that state expediency is most pertinent re exoneration of Louis Riel. A pardon for Riel is not mercy or corrective justice, so it would be political expediency. She states that "Now a pardon is contemplated, not as justice or mercy, but for political purposes of this day".
Exoneration and pardon are being used by Teillet as if one was the other. In any event, the grassroots movement to Exonerate Riel is not by politicians. Ergo, there can be no political expediency from the literally hundreds of grassroots people who have indicated their support for Exoneration.
As well, contrary to Teillet's statement that "a pardon is contemplated" we certainly don't know of any movement whatsoever to ask for a "pardon".
Page 389 "Teillet writes that a bill passed by Parliament or the Senate would be a pardon. .... [an Exoneration Bill] "would likely be considered a pardon regardless of what it says on the document."
Teillet is Wrong on both counts. An Exoneration Bill is NOT a Pardon Bill. It is the exact opposite. Exoneration Bills state that the conviction for High Treason is set aside and the person is declared innocent of the charge or charges (or words to that effect). That is not pardon, or mercy or clemency; it is a legal declaration that the person was never guilty of the crime.
As for the statement that an Exoneration Bill would likely be considered a pardon, that equates to Humpty Dumpty saying "in a rather scornful tone" to Alice "When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean,-neither more nor less." ( Carroll's Through the Looking Glass, Ch.6).
Page 390. Teillet writes that "clemency can have many names, grace, leniency, mercy, exoneration ....".
She obviously does not appreciate specific dictionary definitions that differentiate between the words Exoneration and clemency. Dictionaries make no mention of clemency, mercy, or pardon in defining Exoneration.
Page 390. Teillet writes " A bill to exonerate Louis Riel would be an extra-judicial exercise of clemency."
A Bill to Exonerate Louis Riel would not involve clemency.
Page 392. Teillet writes " Grants of clemency imply guilt and never lose the taint of mercy."
This is totally irrelevant to Exoneration.
Page 392. Teillet writes an Exoneration Bill would be "... an act of political expediency; the Government has exonerated itself."
To the contrary see our comment at page 383/386 concerning the grassroots movement for Exoneration. This movement is not one of political expediency.
As matters stand today legally Louis Riel is a convicted treason criminal. This is a taint on the Metis generally who followed him as their great leader and the one who gave up his life fighting for basic human rights for not only the Metis people but the other residents of the West.
LONG LIVE THE METIS,
Best Regards and Dominus Vobiscum.
George and Terry Goulet
Copyright 2016 Friends of Louis Riel Society All rights reserved. Updated April, 2017