Testimony of Father Vital Fourmond
July 30, 1885

FATHER VITAL FOURMOND sworn (Arthur Lewis, sworn as interpreter. )

Examined by MR. LEMIEUX:

Q. Your profession? A. I am a priest at St Laurent, in the district of Carlton, an Oblat father.
Q. For how long have you been a priest? A. Ten years. I arrived at the place in the year 1875.
Q. Have you known the prisoner Riel since 1884? A. Yes; directly since his arrival. I knew the prisoner by what I had heard, but I never seen him till then.
Q. Since his arrival in the country have you had several conversations with the prisoner up to the time of the rebellion? A. Very often.
Q. At St Laurent? A. At St Laurent, at Batoche, and during the war.
Q. Had you any conversation with the prisoner on religious and political subjects? A. Very often.
Q. Were you present at the meeting which Father Andre spoke of in which Riel's judgment and sanity was questioned? A. Yes; I was present.
Q. Did you agree with the other fathers in the opinion as to the sanity of the prisoner? A. It was me consulted the reverend fathers.
Q. Were you personally acquainted with the facts upon which you based your opinion as to the insanity of Riel? A. I was personally acquainted with the facts upon which they based their opinion.
Q. Will you please state upon what facts you based your opinion that the prisoner was not sane on religious or political matters? A. Permit me to divide the answer into two: the facts before the rebellion and the facts during the rebellion. Before the rebellion it appeared as if there were two men in the prisoner. In private conversation he was affable, polite, pleasant and a charitable man to me. I noticed that even when he was quietly talked to about the affairs of politics and government, and he was not contradicted he was quite rational; but as soon as he was contradicted on these subjects, then he became a different man and would be carried away with his feelings. He would go so far as to use violent expressions to those who were even his friends. As soon as the rebellion commenced, then he became excited and was carried away and he lost all control of himself and of his temper. He went so far that when a father contradicted him, he became quite excited and had no respect for him, and he often threatened to destroy all the churches. He says there is danger for you, but thanks for the friendship I have for you I will protect you from any harm.
Once I went to St Antoine and there I met a number of priests, and Riel says, I have been appointed by the council to be your spiritual adviser. I said that our spiritual adviser was a bishop and that Mr. Riel would not be him. There is only one way you can be our adviser, the only way you can become so is by shooting us, the only way you can direct us is by shooting us, and then you can direct our corpses in any way you like; that was my answer to him. (The interpreter states that he does not feel qualified to correctly interpret the evidence, and Mr. Casgrain proposes that they translate the evidence given by the defence, and Mr. Fitzpatrick that given by the Crown, which is agreed to.) Witness continues: He had extraordinary ideas on the subject of the Trinity. The only God was God the Father, and that God the Son was not God; the Holy Ghost was not God either; the second person of the Trinity was not God and as a consequence of this the Virgin Mary was not the mother of God but the mother of the Son of God. That is the reason why he changed the formula of the prayer which is commonly known as 'Hail Mary.' Instead of saying 'Hail Mary, mother of God,' he said 'Hail Mary, mother of the Son of God.' He did not admit the doctrines of the church, of the divine presence; according to his ideas it was not God who was present in the host, but an ordinary man 6 feet high. As to his political ideas, he wanted first to go to Winnipeg and Lower Canada and the United States and even France. He said he will take your country even, and then he was to go to Italy and overthrow the Pope and then he would choose another Pope of his own making.
MR. OSLER: Your Honor, we would prefer the interpretation should be done by a regular interpreter. I don't think it is within the ordinary rules of evidence that it should be done as it now is; it is a question whether, even if consented to as in this case, it would be binding in a criminal case.

(Court here adjourns for lunch. On court resuming, Louis Bourget was appointed interpreter.)

Q. Before adjournment you said that Riel had said that he was going down to Winnipeg, then he was going to the Province of Quebec, then he was going to cross the ocean and go to Paris and Rome and have a new Pope elected; he would get one appointed or appoint himself as Pope? A. Yes, he said something to that effect.
Q. Have you made up your mind about the prisoner being insane as far as religious matters are concerned? A. We were much embarrassed at first, because sometimes he looked reasonable and sometimes he looked as a man who did not know what he was saying.
Q. Finally? A. We made up our minds there was no way to explain his conduct but that he was insane, otherwise he would have to be too big a criminal.
Q. As the agitation was progressing did you notice a change in his conduct, in his mind? A. A great change, he was a great deal more excitable.
Q. At the time of the rebellion you formed the opinion that he was insane? A. Yes, I can tell some facts to that effect.
Q. If it is not too long, will you tell us what it is? A. Once he was asked by the people to explain his views on religion or religious matters so that they could see through them. When he found out the clergy were against him, that he was contradicted, he turned against the clergy, particularly against me, and opposed the clergy, and kept following me into the tents wherever I would go.
He compelled me to leave the place, go down to the river and cross to the other side. There were several women there who came to shake hands with me. The prisoner had a very extraordinary expression upon his face, he was excited by the opinion he gave upon religion. The prisoner spoke to the women and said:
'Woe unto you if you go to the priests, because you will be killed by the priests.' All of a sudden, when I came to the boat, which was not very easy to get into, the prisoner, with great politeness, came up and said: 'Look out, father, I will help you to get on the boat.'
Q. In an instant he passed from great rage to great politeness, in very few minutes? A. Yes, the first time I was at Batoche I was brought before the council by the prisoner.
Q. When you first came to Batoche were you friends with the prisoner? A. Yes, I was.
Q. You repeat what you have already said that in matters political and religious the prisoner was not in his mind? A. Yes.
Q. And could not be controlled? A. Yes.
Q. And was not sane? A. Yes.
Q. What happened at the council house when he brought you there? A. I was made to render an account of my conduct as a priest, and on several other matters against the provisional government. The prisoner got very much excited and called me a little tiger.
Q. Why did he call you a little tiger? A. I do not know, I suppose because I contradicted him. It was about ten o'clock when I asked to go, late at night, and then the prisoner became very polite and offered a carriage to convey me. The council was in the room above. There was a stairs I had to go down, and I had a parcel in my hands, under my arm. With extraordinary politeness the prisoner took the parcel and said 'Father, you may hurt yourself.'
Q. Did he ever show you a little book in which he had written those prophecies in the blood of the buffalo as to the future of this country? A. I heard of it but I never saw it. The prisoner never spoke to me about the book.


Q. It was when the prisoner was contradicted that he became uncontrollable? A. Yes, that is what I said.
Q. It was then the prisoner became uncontrollable? A. Yes, and at other times too.
Q. The half-breeds did not contradict him upon religious matters? A. Some of the half-breeds did contradict him.
Q. A great number? Most of the half-breeds followed him in his religious views? A. I cannot say; most would be too many.
Q. A great number? A. Yes, and several did not dare to express their views.
Q. Before the rebellion began he was quiet and sane in mind? A. Yes, relatively, except sometimes when he was contradicted, as I said this morning.
Q. When do you fix the commencement of the rebellion? A. 18th of March. The prisoner came himself and proclaimed the rebellion.
Q. He made you take an oath of neutrality towards the provisional government during the rebellion? A. No, there was no oath, but there was a written promise concerning the exercise of the ministry.
Q. Was it in terms of neutrality towards the provisional government? A. Yes.
Q. You said there was no other way to explain his conduct than to say he was insane or a great criminal, and you would rather say he was insane - rather than say he was insane - rather than say he was a great criminal you would say he was insane? A. I did not say that, but in my mind it was the best way to explain it.
Q. You had naturally a great deal of friendship with the prisoner? A. I could not have had much friendship, because I did not know him at the beginning, and afterwards when I became acquainted with him, the friendship was broken off.
Q. Between the time when he came into the mission and the time you had a rupture with him, is it not true that you and he were friends - that you had a great deal of friendship for him? A. Yes, as I would have for you.
Q. Religion has a great influence on half-breeds? A. In what sense? Q. In a general way; they are a religious people by instinct? A. Yes, religion has great influence with them.

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