GIROUARD, GILBERT-ANSELME, merchant and politician; b. 26 Oct. 1846 in Sainte-Marie-de-Kent, N.B., son of Anselme Girouard and Suzanne Jaillet; m. in 1872 Sophia Baker, and they had three children; d. 13 Jan. 1885 in Buctouche, N.B.
Gilbert-Anselme Girouard, like most prominent New Brunswick Acadians of the late 19th century, was educated in a local parish school and then pursued a classical training at the Collège Saint-Joseph in Memramcook, N.B. It was at the college, established by Father Camille Lefebvre* in 1864, that Girouard became fluently bilingual and developed his oratorical skills as an active member of the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste. After graduating in 1868, he taught school in his native parish at a salary of $10 per month. In 1870 he moved to nearby Buctouche where he established himself as a general merchant.
Business flourished in Buctouche and Girouard gained considerable respect in the community. A Liberal-Conservative by political persuasion, he was eventually approached to seek election as member of parliament for Kent County. Girouard agreed to stand, and in the general election of 1878 he defeated the incumbent Liberal, George McLeod, and three other English-speaking candidates. The Conservatives under Sir John A. Macdonald* won a decisive victory nationally, but the Liberals in New Brunswick under Sir Albert James Smith and Isaac Burpee retained all but five of the 16 seats. The second Acadian to sit in the House of Commons, Girouard was easily re-elected in 1882 when he received almost twice as many votes as his opponent, George Valentine McInerney.
As a member of parliament until 1883, Girouard actively pressed for local improvements in his constituency and worked on behalf of the entire Acadian people. He was one of the most vocal proponents of a railway, opened in 1885, between Buctouche and the mercantile centre of Moncton. The people of the Buctouche area were thus freed from relying on transportation by horse cart or packet-boat from the existing rail terminus at Shediac. He spoke out in favour of an Acadian senator, and in March 1885 Pascal Poirier* was appointed. Girouard also wrote letters of recommendation for Placide Gaudet* who was trying for a position at the national archives, and was responsible for the selection in 1885 of Auguste Renaud, the first Acadian member of parliament, as collector of customs for Buctouche.
In 1880 Girouard joined 40 other clerical and lay Acadian leaders in attending the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste convention in Quebec City to which French-speaking peoples from across Canada had been invited. Inspired by the resulting realization of themselves as a special group within the larger francophone population, the Acadian leaders decided to organize a similar convention for themselves. Almost 5,000 Acadians assembled in convention at Memramcook in late July 1881, an occasion described as the “rebirth of the Acadian nation.” Declaring their intention to “live as a separate entity [and] to forge their own identity and heritage,” the Acadians chose a national feast day and established the Société Nationale de l’Assomption to represent them. Girouard, who was secretary of the convention’s executive committee, laid particular emphasis in his speeches on the importance of education for young Acadians and on the preservation of an Acadian heritage. He continued to be active in the movement and was an executive member for a local convention held in Buctouche in August 1883.
In the House of Commons Girouard made lengthy statements only twice. The first, in 1880, concerned his belief that the Maritime provinces were entitled to a portion of the fisheries compensation to be paid Canada by the United States as a result of the Treaty of Washington of 1871. The second speech which he delivered in 1881 was of much greater significance in Girouard’s career for it ultimately led to his resignation in the summer of 1883. It dealt with his claim for losses sustained in 1872 in fulfilling a contract from the federal government to deliver railway ties to Bathurst, N.B., for the Intercolonial Railway. Confusion had developed over the place of delivery and some of the ties were lost at sea while being rafted from Bathurst to Petit-Rocher. Girouard claimed that delivery had been made and that the government owed him a considerable sum of money. Timothy Warren Anglin*, Liberal mp for Gloucester, charged Girouard with conflict of interest, and against Macdonald’s wishes he resigned. Girouard’s health was also precarious, and Pierre-Amand Landry*, a leading figure in the New Brunswick government, had been pressing for some months to take over his seat. Girouard was appointed collector of customs for Richibucto immediately prior to his resignation, and Landry assumed his seat after winning a by-election on 22 Sept. 1883.
Girouard’s health continued to deteriorate, and he was rarely seen in public after the spring of 1884. He died from tuberculosis in January 1885 at age 38.
Can., House of Commons, Debates, 1880–81. Daily Sun (Saint John, N.B.), 14 Jan. 1885. Le Moniteur acadien (Shédiac, N.-B.), 15 janv. 1885, 1 juill. 1890. Weekly Transcript (Moncton), 4 July 1883. CPC, 1879, 1883. Dominion annual register, 1883–85. Album historique, 1864–1939, publié à l’occasion des fêtes du 75e anniversaire, 13–14 juin 1939 ([Moncton, 1939]). L’album souvenir des noces d’argent de la Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste du collège Saint-Joseph, Memramcook, N.B. ([Moncton, 1894]). Conventions nationales des Acadiens, Recueil des travaux et déliberations des six premières conventions, F.-J. Robidoux, compil. (Shédiac, 1907). É.-L. Léger, L’histoire de la paroisse de Saint-Antoine, les débuts jusqu’à l’année 1967 ([Shediac Bridge, N.-B.], 1967). Marguerite Michaud, La reconstruction française au Nouveau-Brunswick: Bouctouche, paroisse-type (Fredericton, 1955). D. M. M. Stanley, Au service de deux peuples: Pierre-Amand Landry (Moncton, 1977).