The Black Rod

The origin of the Usher of the Black Rod goes back to early fourteenth century England . Today, with no royal duties to perform, the Usher knocks on the doors of the House of Commons with the Black Rod at the start of Parliament to summon the members. The rod is a symbol for the authority of debate in the upper house. We of The Black Rod have since 2005, adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

We are citizen journalists in Winnipeg. When not breaking exclusive stories, we analyze news coverage by the mainstream media and highlight bias, ignorance, incompetence, flawed logic, missed angles and, where warranted, good work. We serve as the only overall news monitors in the province of Manitoba. We do the same with politicians (who require even more monitoring.) EMAIL:

Monday, February 16, 2015

An eyewitness account of Riel's execution

                                    The Huron Expositor, Nov. 20, 1885

                                                RIEL HANGED

The execution of Louis David Riel took place at Regina on Monday morning last.  He met his fate bravely and never winced even to the last moment. Riel never slept after receiving intelligence that the execution would take place Monday morning, and thoughout the night was constant in his devotions.  At seven o'clock he had a light supper, and at five in the morning mass was celebrated, following two hours later by the administration of the last sacrament.  Riel towards the last almost entirely dropped his new religious idiosyncracies and decided to die a devout Catholic.
                                               His Last Devotions
The hour fixed for the execution was eight o'clock, but it was fifteen minutes past that hour before those who had passes from the sheriff were admitted to the guard-room.  Here was found the prisoner kneeling on the floor of an upper room, from which he was to step to the gallows. It was a sad scene. Around him were gathered members of mounted police, Sheriff Chapleau, Deputy-Sheriff Gibson and a few others. The room was illuminated by a small window covered with a rime of frost through which the sun, now risen but an hour, shot a few weak rays.  Riel now knelt beside the open window, through which the gallows could be seen, and prayed incessantly for fully half an hour. Fathers McWilliams and Andre conducted the service for the doomed man in French, Riel repeating the responses in a clear voice, which could be heard distinctly above the murmurs of the priests' whispering tones.  

Riel wore a loose woolen surtout, grey trousers and woolen shirt. On his feet were moccasins, the only feature of his dress that partook of the Indian that was in him. He received the notice to proceed to the scaffold in the same composed manner shewn the preceding  night on receiving warning of his fate. His face was full of color, and he appeared to have complete self-possession, still responding to the service in a clear tone. 

The prisoner decided only a moment before starting for the scaffold not to make a speech. This was owing to the earnest solicitation of both the priests attending him.  He displayed an inclination at the last moment to make an address, but Father Andre reminded him of his promise.
                                 The Procession to the Scaffold

Jack Henderson, the regular hangman, an old Red River pioneer, who had no cause to love Riel because of the first rebellion, commenced the work of pinioning the prisoner. Henderson himself had in former time been Riel's prisoner. The melancholy procession soon began to wend its way toward the scaffold, which had been erected for Khonnors, the Hebrew, and soon came in sight of the noose. Deputy-Sheriff Gibson went ahead, then came Father McWilliams, next Riel, then Father Andre, Dr. Jukes, and others.  As he stood on the trap-door Riel continued invoking the aid of Jesus, Mary, and the saints, during his last agonies. "Courage, pere," he said, addressing Father Andre and then he addressed Father McWilliams in the same words.  The latter priest kissed Riel, who said," I believe still in God."

"To the last?" said Father Andre.
"Yes, the very last," answered Riel; "I believe and trust in Him. Sacred Heart of Jesus have mercy on me."

Dr, Jukes shook hands with the prisoner who said in English: "Thank you, doctor." Then he continued: "Jesus, Mary, Joseph, assistez moi en ce dernier moment."
                                                     The Fatal Drop

Deputy-Sheriff Gibson then said, "Louis Riel, have you anything to say before death?" Riel answered, "No." He was given two minutes to pray, and he repeated the Lord's Prayer, Father McWilliams leading,  while the cap was being drawn over his face and the rope adjusted. At the words "Lead me not into temptation" the hangman sprang the bolt, at 28 minutes past eight, and Riel shot downward with a terrible crash. For a second he did not move. A slight twitching of the limbs was noticed, but instantly all was still again.  

In two minutes after the fall, Louis Riel was no more.  His neck was broken instantly. His conduct on the scaffold was very courageous.  He was pale but firm, and kept up his courage by constant prayer, thus diverting his thoughts from the terrible death before him. His neck was broken by the fall;  the doctors say he could have experienced no physical suffering. For a second or two his limbs twitched slightly, then a convulsive shudder ran through his frame, and all was over. In less than three minutes Dr. Dodds pronounced him dead. Few persons were present. The only people on the scaffold besides the condemned man and the hangman were Deputy-Sheriff Gibson, Dr. Jukes, of the Mounted Police, Father Andre, Father McWilliams, and the press representatives.  
                                                        The Inquest

The body was cut down after half an hour and the usual inquest and post mortem held. Dr.Jukes reported the execution most cleverly performed. From the moment he fell, judging from the nature of the injuries received, he must have been entirely without sensation. The neck was entirely dislocated from the bone of the two upper joints of the vertebrae, thus paralyzing all the lower portion of the body, and he could have felt no pain whatsoever. The circulation ceased in four minutes, an unusually short time. The coroner and jury then viewed the body and found the features much distorted. One juryman had to retire from the sight.                  

                                          What Father M'Williams Says
Father McWilliams, in referring to the conduct of the condemned man on the night before his execution, said that when Riel was praying with him and Father Andre he frequently interrupted them when they said "Louis Riel," interpolating "David" each time. Father McWilliams was a classmate with Riel at the college in Montreal. He says he never attended a condemned man who was so fully prepared to die, and with whose conduct he was so much edified. Father McWilliams said that until the last moment came he firmly believed something would interfere to prevent the execution. 
                                          What Father Andre Says
Father Andre, whose ministrations to the executed rebel have been constant during his confinement, says it was Riel's custom to read the Bible every day, his mother having sent him a Bible. The reverend father detailed a conversation he had with Riel in the morning a short time previous to his execution, relative to the Scott murder. 

Riel said:---"I have been reproached with the death of Scott, but at this day I think it was only a political mistake, and by bringing the half-breeds to a sense of what they were doing it saved hundreds of other lives. I think I made a mistake, but before God and my conscience I did not commit a crime. Sir John Macdonald is now committing me to death for the same reason I committed Scott, because it is necessary for the country's good. I admit Scott's shooting was mismanaged, but I commanded it because I thought it necessary. He tried to kill his guards. They came to me and said they could do nothing with him. The rebellion was on the eve of breaking out all over the country, but as soon as Scott was killed it subsided."

Being asked to divulge Scott's place of burial, Riel said, "That's not my secret. I have been pardoned once for his death, but am now going to die for it."

                                           Forced Into Rebellion By Dumont
In response to a query by Father McWilliams, Riel said:--- "I assure you that three weeks before the Duck Lake fight I had no idea of rebellion, but it was forced on me by Gabriel Dumont and others, who came and said the people would abandon me if I did not do something to bring the government to terms. I had been six months in the country and done nothing."

Riel was then asked why when the rebellion was fairly started, he did not act decisively by attacking Prince Albert and Carleton.

Riel said, "I was afraid, for if I went with the Indians there would inevitably have been a massacre." 
Being asked why he left all his papers to be captured, thereby criminating many, Riel replied:---"During the last three days at Batoche I confess I lost my head. I told Pierre Parenteay to destroy them all, but in the hurry and confusion he did not do so." 

                                          The Last Letters

At 3 a.m. Riel wrote a letter to the lawyers who defended him, saying he was thankful for all they had done. They had done everything in their power, and if they had failed it was not their fault. 

He also wrote letters to his wife, his mother, and his relatives and then kneeling prayed extempore for an hour and a half, using the most beautiful language. He asked that God give Sir John wisdom, but take him very quickly to himself. Riel laughed as he said this, and Captain White Fraser, who was watching, said that was bad. Riel replied that he couldn't do better than wish Sir John in heaven.  
Then rising, he smilingly said, in a reflective manner, "Twas very strange to see a poor man like myself with all the power of Canada arrayed against him. It is not because (unreadable) prophet for they knew that cannot help me in my present position." 

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Saturday, February 14, 2015

The murder that doomed Louis Riel

The Sarnia Observer, April 1, 1870
             NEWS FROM RED RIVER

The latest news of any importance from Red River, is the particulars of the shooting, by the usurper Riel, of a Canadian of the name Thomas Scot, for alleged faithlessness to the Provisional Government.  It appears Scott was one of the imprisoned Canadians, but had been released on condition that he would not take up arms against the insurgents, a promise to this effect having been extorted from him as the condition of his liberation.

This was during the time  the Boulton-Schultz movement was in progress, and it seems Scott, in all probability having his temper excited by the conduct of Riel towards those who had been his fellow prisoners, and anxious to secure their liberation, and the downfall of this upstart French half-breed, joined the movement referred to, on the evening of the same day on which his release took place. He was captured with others of Major Boulton's party, when the sally took place from the Fort a few days afterwards.

Being thus found in arms against Riel's usurped authority, it was determined to try him by Court-martial. The result, as might have been expected was, that he was found guilty, and sentenced to be shot; and on the 14th of March, he was actually brought out and shot in front of the Fort.

----  Since writing the above, we learn by the Globe of yesterday that four Canadians who left Fort Garry towards the end of February, had arrived in St. Paul on Tuesday last; and they report that the mass of the people have no sympathy with Riel or his revolution, and that nothing but the lack of arms and an authorized leader prevented the loyalists from putting down the insurrection.

They are on their way to Ottawa to urge upon the government the necessity of taking prompt steps to extend protection to the settlers, the bulk of whom are staunchly loyal. They state positively that Scott was not paroled, but an escaped prisoners (sic), who afterwards joined Boulton's party; and that Riel had him shot because he was an Orangeman and obnoxious to the priesthood, and that the priests favoured his execution.

(Halifax) Morning Chronicle, April 21, 1870

   Further Particulars of the Execution of Scott

The Toronto "Telegraph" which has gone wild over this Red River business, publishes the following statement of the manner of Scott's death, received from a gentleman just arrived from Red River: ----

Scott, who was a fearless, brave, manly fellow, was continually defying Riel. On one occasion he shook his fist in Riel's face , saying, "If we ever meet on equal terms I will take the worth of this imprisonment out of your hide."

One who was standing by at the time tells me that Riel's usual swagger dwindled into tremulous fear before the defiant words and gestures of young Scott.

His dispatch was shortly after decided upon, and a so-called military tribunal was convened, the members of which, with one exception, decided that Scott should be shot.  One Lepine, the adjutant, and, of course, the tool of Riel, was the presiding worthy of that tribunal. The decision was arrived at six o'clock, p.m., and it was decided to carry out the sentence at an early hour the next day.

Scott was not apprised of this until about an hour before the time fixed for his execution, and when he did hear of it he laughed at it, believing it to be but another specimen of Riel's previous unexecuted threats.

In the meantime Rev. Mr. Young had supplicated Riel, and had obtained a reprieve until noon, at which time Riel swore he must die. At noon he was brought out in front of Fort Garry blind-folded and placed in a kneeling position, his hands and knees bound together tightly, the hands being bound behind his back.

Six of Riel's half-drunken adherents were detailed to execute him. The words were given and the shots were fired intermittently, so bungling or so drunken were the murderers. This was further indicated by the fact that but four of the bullets entered his body, and none of these touched a vital part. Poor Scott fell over on his side on the snow, writhing terribly. When it was seen that life was not extinct, one of the fellows pulled out his revolver and placed the muzzle close to his right ear and discharged it, but the ball glanced through the jaw and emerged from the mouth without touching the brain; and while it probably increased the anguish, it did not hasten death. The writhing, contortionizing body was then picked up and thrown into a rough box, which was about a foot too short, and which was carried into the Fort and placed behind one of the bastions. This occupied about three-quarters of an hour.

At half-past six o'clock, nearly six hours afterwards, a file of men sent to bury him found so strong was the vital tenacity of the man that life was not yet extinct. and the intermittent workings and jerkings of the muscles denoted that his horrible pains had not ceased. One of the burying party ran away affrighted to Riel, who ordered them to blow his brains out and be d____d to him. This order was obeyed and poor Scott, who was the essence of bravery, manliness, and fearlessness paid his last reckoning and died for his country a death---which would have been considered a crime if rendered to a dog.

The unusual strength of the man was indicated by the fact the the spasmodic writhings of the nether limbs had broken the foot board of his coffin away from the nail fastenings. A more horrible death in these days of civilization is hard to conceive.

Father Richot was privy to his murder, and approved of it, if, indeed, he did not actually inspire it. I have had ample evidence of an indirect, but conclusive character that this is correct.  One word from him would have saved poor Scott's life. That word remained unuttered; and yet the Canadian government, I hear, propose to treat with Richot, who is quite as much accountable for Scott's murder as is Riel, and indeed actually and unconvincingly expresses his avowal of its necessity and its legality. He says that it was absolutely necessary for state reasons.

Ottawa Citizen, Jan. 11, 1904
                    GRAVE OF SCOTT 
   After 34 years Silence the Disposition of His Body is Confessed

Winnipeg, Jan. 19---The secret of the disposal of the remains of Thomas Scott, Riel's victim, has been revealed by a rebel lieutenant after 34 years silence.

This man is today a well-known Manitoban but there are reasons why his name should not be given.

He met Mr. McFarlane, who was a Hudson's Bay factor at the time of the Riel rebellion, at the funeral of Pierre D'Eschambault yesterday. Riel's confederate divulged to Mr. McFarlane that after the murder a grave had been dug within the fort, and a coffin supposed to contain the body lowered in the presence of a battalion of Riel's soldiers. But Scott's remains were not in that coffin, the mock interment being but a ruse on the part of Riel who did not choose to trust many of his followers with this knowledge. 

After the mock interment the body was dragged by a few trusty men to the bank of the Red River and at a point near where the Broadway bridge now stands was put through a hole in the ice and sunk by means of a weight tied about the neck. This weight was a Hudson Bay grindstone.

Mr. McFarlane believes that an investigation will reveal this grindstone and perhaps of bones of poor Scott.

It is likely an investigation will be undertaken.

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Monday, February 02, 2015

Manitoba Hydro Horror Show

Manitoba Hydro didn't ask for a rate increase last month--- they begged, they pleaded, and ... they threatened dire consequences if they didn't get their way.

And that was just for the best-case scenario.

Which is disastrous.
The reason for their desperation is in the supporting documents that were filed with their application which can be summed up in four words: Manitoba Hydro Horror Show.
Here's how the crisis shapes up:
* Manitoba Hydro won't be able to raise enough money to make its interest payments in eight of the next 13 years.
* Manitoba Hydro won't earn enough money to cover the cost of replacing aging infrastructure in nine of the next ten years, never mind paying the billions required for new dams and transmission lines.
* If the Province has to backstop Hydro, the utility will lose its credit rating and borrowing costs will go way up.
* If Hydro loses its credit rating, it will take the Province over the cliff with it. In short, Manitoba will lose its credit rating, too, and taxpayers will pay the price.
* Manitoba Hydro can't make up the difference by exporting more power. In fact, Hydro now predicts fixed export prices will be 7 percent lower on average over the next 20 years.  Why?  Fracking, which Hydro dismissed five years ago as a fad.
And that's the sunny scenario.
In the event of a drought, Manitoba Hydro would probably deplete its accumulated reserves depending on how severe it was and how many years it lasted.
"In this circumstance, there would not be sufficient reserves to mitigate the potential financial impacts of the considerable array of the risks the Corporation faces in fulfilling its mandate."
Oh, and a drought is almost inevitable. The last one was in 2004 which means we're entering the average drought cycle.
"Should a severe drought occur during the first 10-year period, net income and the equity ratio would be further challenged and higher rate increases would be necessary."
Already the debt-to-equity ration is projected "to deteriorate from the current 24% level to 11% equity by 2022/23" because of the huge borrowing that's necessary to build two new dams, Bipole III, and a new link to the United States, said Hydro.
"While Manitoba Hydro is prepared to accept deterioration of its financial ratios in order to mitigate rate increases for customers, the proposed 3.95% rate increases are the minimum that are required to maintain rate stability and manage the deterioration in the Corporation’s financial strength during the period of extensive investments."
"It is imperative for Manitoba Hydro to be granted the proposed rate increases..." declared Hydro.
The definition of "imperative":
adjective: imperative
1. of vital importance; crucial.
Here are the some of the more relevant portions of the Manitoba Hydro application:
"The 3.95% proposed and indicative rate increases are the minimum necessary to manage the significant deterioration in Manitoba Hydro’s projected financial results and ratios in the next 10 year period. Should the PUB defer the proposed rate increases, there is greater risk that future rate increases will be significantly higher than 3.95%."
"Manitoba Hydro is relaxing its adherence to financial targets over this period in order to alleviate rate increases in excess of 3.95% to the extent possible. Due to the deterioration in Manitoba Hydro’s financial ratios... any further increases to costs or reductions to revenues increases the risk of significantly higher rate increases to customers."
"The interest coverage ratio provides an indication of the ability of the Corporation to meet interest payment obligations."
"Manitoba Hydro’s interest coverage ratio is also forecast to be well below target for several years of the forecast. In eight years of the forecast, Manitoba Hydro’s interest coverage ratio is below 1.0, which indicates that the utility would experience elevated operational liquidity risk and may have difficulty generating sufficient revenues and cash flow from operations to pay its interest obligations."
"The capital coverage ratio measures the ability of current period internally generated funds to finance sustaining capital expenditures (excluding major new generation and related transmission)."
"Capital coverage is projected to be below target for nine years of the forecast, and below 1.00 for six of those nine years, due to the reduction in net income and increasing capital requirements to replace aging infrastructure..."
"Even with net extraprovincial revenues, Manitoba Hydro is projecting losses on electric operations in 2018/19 to 2023/24 totaling  approximately $0.9 billion..."  (That's $900 million, for the mathematically challenged.)
"The key financial risks associated with rate increases lower than 3.95% are:
 i. Increased risk to customers of rate instability and rate shock;
 ii. Increased borrowing requirements and associated financing costs which must be recovered from customers in the future;
 iii. Potential negative implications to the Provincial credit rating and Manitoba Hydro’s borrowing costs."
Composition of Province of Manitoba Debt
Province of Manitoba (excluding Manitoba Hydro) 65%
Manitoba Hydro (self-supporting debt) 35%
" The credit rating agencies view Manitoba Hydro to be financially self-supporting in that  the Corporation is able to meet its financial obligations based on its own revenues without being supported by the tax-base of the Province."
"Should the capital markets perceive Manitoba Hydro’s debt levels to be too high, there may be negative implications to the Province’s credit ratings, which could result in higher borrowing costs. As a result of  the significance of the size of Manitoba Hydro’s debt in relation to the Province of  Manitoba’s debt as a whole, the debt/equity ratio is a key indicator in the review of Manitoba Hydro for the Province’s credit rating."
"In Manitoba Hydro’s judgment, the projected deterioration in the equity ratio... is at the minimum acceptable financial operating level even with the proposed and indicative rate increases. Any further deterioration in the equity ratio significantly  increases the risk of large rate increases to customers in the longer term and any reduction to the rate increases proposed in this Application only intensifies this risk to customers."
Manitoba Hydro has clearly lost control of its finances. 

Even with proposed rate hikes at twice the rate of inflation, they can only promise the possibility of even greater increases at every turn.  Along with the likelihood of a loss of the utility's credit rating and the province's credit rating.
And we're still subsidizing the "sale" of power to Minnesota for the next nine years.

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