History of Northwest Territories Capital Cities - Fort Garry, Manitoba (1870–1876)

Fort Garry, Manitoba (1870–1876)

For more details on this topic, see Fort Garry.

The Government of Canada purchased the North-Western Territory and Rupert's Land from the Hudson's Bay Company in 1868, under the terms of the Rupert's Land Act 1868 for £300,000 British pounds. Both purchased territories were largely uninhabited, consisting mostly of uncharted wilderness. After the purchase, the Government decided to merge both of the properties into a single jurisdiction and appoint a single territorial government to run both. The purchase of the two territories added a sizable portion of the current Canadian landmass.

In 1869, Ontario Member of Parliament William McDougall was appointed as the first Lieutenant Governor of the Northwest Territories and sent to Fort Garry to establish formal governance for Canada. Before his party arrived at the settlement, a small group led by Louis Riel intercepted him near the Ontario border and forced him to turn back because they opposed the transfer to the Canadian government. The inhabitants of the Red River Valley began the Red River Rebellion, delaying formal governance until their demands for provincial status were met.

The rebellion resulted in the creation of the Province of Manitoba (inclusive of Fort Garry) and a delay in establishing governance in the Territories. In 1870, the Northwest Territories and Manitoba formally entered the Canadian confederation. The two jurisdictions remained partially conjoined: under the Temporary Government Act, 1870. The Temporary North-West Council was appointed in 1872, mainly from members of the new Manitoba Legislative Assembly, with the Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba serving as the leader of the territorial government. The Governor and Council were mandated to govern the Territories through the Manitoba Act and did so from outside of the Northwest Territories. Fort Garry served as the first seat of government for both jurisdictions.

The temporary government sat for the first time in 1872. It was renewed by federal legislation each year until a permanent solution for governance was decided upon. The federal government renewed the Temporary Council for the last time in 1875 and chose a new location, within the boundaries of the Northwest Territories, to form a new government. Along with the new seat of power, a new council greatly reduced in size was appointed along with a new Lieutenant Governor to specifically lead the Territories without also governing Manitoba.

In the 1870s, Fort Garry consisted of two distinct settlements. The first site was named Upper Fort Garry, and the secondary site was named Lower Fort Garry, 32 kilometres (20 mi) downstream on the Red River. After the territorial government moved, Fort Garry continued to be the seat of government for Manitoba, and for the now defunct District of Keewatin territory between 1876 to 1905. Fort Garry evolved to become modern-day Winnipeg, still the capital of Manitoba, with Lower Fort Garry being declared a national historical site.

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