Councillor wants park named after Métis killed by mob

A Winnipeg city councillor hopes to convince city officials to name a new park after Elzéar Goulet, a Métis man who was killed by a mob more than 130 years ago.

A Winnipeg city councillorhopes to convince city officialstoname a new park after Elzéar Goulet, a Métis man who was killed by an angry mob more than 130 years ago.

Goulet, a cohort of Louis Riel, was killed by a group of soldiers who pelted him with stones as he tried to swim across the Red River from Winnipeg to St. Boniface in 1870.

The city recently purchased two hectares of industrial land in the St. Boniface area near the spot where Goulet died and plans to convert it into a park.

St. Boniface Coun. Dan Vandal will ask a city committee next week to name the land Elzéar Goulet Memorial Park.

"It's not very well known, but it's one of those remarkable Winnipeg stories, and Winnipeg needs these stories, I think… to be brought to life," Vandal told CBC News.

"I like the fact that it brings some animation, some colour, some of actually what really happened at the time to other people, other than Riel."

Little-known story

Goulet's final resting place in the cemetery at the St. Boniface cathedral is marked with a simple white monument.

"All it says is, 'Elzéar Goulet, died at St. Boniface the 13th of September, 1870 at the age of 34 years old,'" said Philippe Mailhot, executive director of the St. Boniface Museum.

"There's nothing here that will tell you the story of his tragic role in Canadian history."

Goulet was amember of the Riel resistance.On the day of his death, he was spotted by soldiers in what is now downtown Winnipeg, across the Red River from St. Boniface.

"A mob quickly formed. They chased him down what is now Lombard Avenue— but at the time was called Post Office Street— chased him to the riverbank, throwing sort of paving stones and other stones at him as he ran," said Mailhot.

"He dove into the river, seeking to swim to the St. Boniface side of the river, and a stone struck him in the head and he essentially was knocked unconscious and drowned."

No arrests, prosecution

The death of Goulet, who was reportedly a friendly and gentle man, had a chilling effect on the Métis, Mailhot said.

"Even though they could identify the soldiers involved, there was no effort on the part of the authorities to essentially lay blame, to put people on trial, to make them responsible for this killing," he said.

"[It] just sent the message to Métis that you are no longer welcome here.You show your face on the west side of the river… we're going to beat you, we're going to kill you, and if you think you're going to get any help from the Canadian authorities now that we're established here, forget it."

As a result, many Métis, who had lived in the area for several generations, moved from Manitoba to Saskatchewan, Montana and other areas, Mailhot said.

"That's the tragedy of that killing," he said.

If the city committee approves Vandal's proposal to name the park after Goulet next week, it must also be approved by City Hall.The councillor does not expect any challenge to the name.

Vandal hopes Elzéar Goulet Memorial Park will be open for public use by the summer or fall of 2008.