So here we have Louis Riel's tombstone. It's located in the Cimetiere de la Cathedrale de Saint-Boniface. From the Fort Garry Hotel in the heart of Winnipeg, I walked through the VIA-Rail train station, crossed over the Red River on Esplanade Riel, and made my way along the river to the tombstone. I was especially keen to visit it because in Celtic Lightning, I suggest that the Riel tragedy would have evolved and ended differently if Thomas D'Arcy McGee had NOT been assassinated. Basically, I make the case that, while the pragmatist John A. MacDonald was, famously,
one irreplaceable man, the visionary McGee was another. He was the one who brought Nova Scotia and New Brunswick into Confederation. He called for a separate province for First Nations people, and he led the struggle against Orange Order intolerance. As an Irish Catholic, and a champion of minority rights, McGee would have opposed the hanging of Louis Riel. And, because he had the ear of MacDonald, he might well have saved the Metis leader. Standing at the gravesite, I found myself wondering how different Canadian history might have been.