Elzear Goulet Memorial Park – Saint Boniface Manitoba
I’ve never been much of a weekend motorcycle rider. Mostly because I’ve always worked over the weekends and holidays. The reasoning is simple. 1. People on vacation travel. 2. Flying is a convenient means to travel. 3. Pilots work on weekends and over the holidays to fly vacationers to far away, difficult to access vacation resorts or lodges. I am a pilot. Therefore I work on weekends and holidays.
The difference with my time off, when I get it, is that I have large blocks of time, often 4-6 weeks, where I can plan long complex tours across multiple provinces, states or countries. For those endurance tours, my favourite ride is the Grand Mama of touring motorcycles – a blazing blue 2017 Honda GL1800 Gold Wing.
Our rides (I say “our rides” because my wife and I usually ride two-up) consist of long-distance tours that can take anywhere from ten days to four weeks and cover 4,000 to 12,000 km. I have selfies with me, myself, my wife and my motorcycle in hundreds of locations throughout Canada, the USA, and Europe. Until the COVID-19 pandemic isolated me inside my home province of Manitoba, I had no desire to take short, boring rides nearby where I live.
Meanwhile, via Air Canada, I arrived back at the Winnipeg International Airport on March 03rd, 2020, after travelling through nine different countries (including the USA, Portugal, Spain, Malta, Greece, Egypt, UAE, and India) in almost as many days. I took a taxi home and then went into self-quarantine for 14 days and have been self-isolating every since.
As spring came and went and summer arrived, I would hyperventilate whenever the realization crossed my mind that I wasn’t going to be able to travel – internationally – for the entire summer. Canada is such a tiny country. I have been (almost) everywhere in Canada at one point or another. Been there – done that! And then it dawned on me that it wasn’t just the world I was excluded from but also Canada as a whole. That only leaves, god forbid, Manitoba!
The idea of riding in Manitoba on our teeth-chattering pot-holed roads, being splatted by swarms of mosquitoes and blackflies, smacking into a solid-as-a-brick-wall moose, playing whack-a-mole with deer crossing the road ahead, or laying my bike down on patches of slippery fish flies or slimy armyworms did not appeal to me at all.
Plus, the thought of the lack of mountain sweeps and twisties, the void of cappuccino and black-forest-cake rest stop cafes, and a dearth of great road-side restaurants made me queasy like I had just stepped off a Wonder Shows Alice-in-Wonderland Teacup spin-of-death ride. Then lightning struck.
While in the process of researching a blog post, I came across a website named Manitoba by Motorcycle. At first, I wasn’t necessarily intrigued, but then I saw – The Challenge!
Yes, a genuinely in-your-face challenge. A challenge to my motorcycle touring manhood. This, I could not ignore.
The challenge is to ride your motorcycle to 12 of Manitoba’s Provincial Parks, 20 Town Statues and 15 Municipal Monuments within one riding season to earn a badge for each completed mission. How was I supposed to turn that down?
My immediate problem, however, was that after 50 plus years of independent riding, I decided that the list of parks, statues and monuments was incomplete. I wanted more.
So I immediately started my own list. I still plan to follow Manitoba by Motorcycle’s list and complete their challenges, but I will add on my own peculiar set of self-interests.
I decided to start with my family history. Specifically, a “Parc Commémoratif” designated to memorialize my great, great, great grandfather. (Or great, great, great uncle – I am not sure which.) Elzéar Goulet.
My dear great, great, great grandfather (or uncle), Elzéar Goulet, had the bad luck to be one of the few locals killed in Louis Riel’s Provisional Government rebellion of 1869. Another unfortunate lost soul was Thomas Scott who was court-martialed and executed by firing squad by the provisional government, of which Elzéar Goulet was a member. The Red River Rebellion eventually led to the postage-stamp province entering the Canadian Confederation, but it also sowed the seeds of discord between the predominantly Anglo-Saxon Protestant “Canadians” and the predominantly Catholic Métis “Manitobans”.
In 1869 Goulet joined the forces of Louis Riel* at Upper Fort Garry and became second in command of the Métis irregular armed force commanded by Ambroise-Dydime Lépine*. On 3 March 1870, together with Lépine, Janvier Ritchot, André Nault*, Joseph Delorme, Elzéar Lagimodière, and Jean-Baptiste Lépine*, he served as a member of the court martial for Thomas Scott, accused of treason against the provisional government. Goulet supported imposition of the penalty of death by the court. On 4 March he, together with André Nault, acted as escort for Scott when he was taken from Upper Fort Garry and shot by a Métis firing squad.
Source: Dictionary of Canadian BiographyJ. A. Jackson, “GOULET, ELZÉAR,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 9, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed July 2, 2020, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/goulet_elzear_9E.html.
Manitoba entered the Canadian Confederation in July 1870. Elzéar was downtown Winnipeg a few months later and spotted by a member of the Canadian faction who had been a prisoner of Riel and who resented Thomas Scott’s execution. They organized a mob, including several soldiers, and chased Elzéar to the banks of the Red River. Elzéar hazarded to swim across the Red River to the safety of Saint Boniface, but the disappointed mob threw rocks, hitting him on the head and rendering him unconscious.
Elzéar Goulet drowned. When they found his body the next day, his head showed a large gash. No one was ever charged for his death.
Ironically, and generously, the land for the memorial park was donated by the great, great, great-granddaughter of Thomas Scott. The park’s marker includes two plaques. One commemorates the donation of land by Susan Scott to the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs for use as a park.
So Manitoba by Motorcycle – here is my nomination for a both a Park and a Monument.
One additional note: Elzéar was the older brother to Maxime Goulet, who became the first Agricultural Minister for the newly minted province of Manitoba.