GOULET, ELZÉAR, mail carrier, member of the court martial which condemned Thomas Scott; b. 1836 at Saint-Boniface, Red River Settlement, son of Alexis Goulet and Josephte Siveright; drowned 13 Sept. 1870 in the Red River at Winnipeg, Man.
Elzéar Goulet was descended from Canadian voyageurs who had come west with Pierre Gaultier* de Varennes et de La Vérendrye and his sons. His mother was the daughter of John Siveright*, a factor of the Hudson’s Bay Company at Fort Pelly, Rupert’s Land. Two older brothers become prominent in the early political affairs of Manitoba.
Goulet received some schooling at Saint-Boniface. In 1859 he married at Pembina, Dakota Territory, Hélène Jérôme, dit Saint-Matte, an orphan, brought up as the ward of her uncle Joseph Rolette*, pioneer merchant, freighter, and politician of Pembina. Elzéar and Hélène Goulet had six children. From 1860 to 1869 Goulet carried the mails from Pembina to Upper Fort Garry (Winnipeg). During this period Goulet became an American citizen.
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.
On 13 Sept. 1870 Goulet was recognized in the hamlet of Winnipeg by a member of the Canadian faction who had been a prisoner of Riel during the period of the provisional government. This man, whose identity cannot be determined, and two uniformed members of the expedition of Garnet Joseph Wolseley*, pursued Goulet, apparently to apprehend him for complicity in the death of Scott. Goulet fled on foot to the Red River and tried to swim to safety on the Saint-Boniface side. His disappointed pursuers threw rocks, one of which struck him on the head, stunning him, and he drowned. When the body was recovered the following day, it bore the mark of a blow on the head.
Goulet’s drowning took place within a month of the arrival of the Wolseley expedition at Red River and just 11 days after the arrival of Manitoba’s first lieutenant governor, Sir Adams George Archibald*. The coroner, Curtis James Bird*, who had held the office under the Council of Assiniboia, was absent. Archibald appointed two HBC magistrates, Salomon Hamelin* and Robert MacBeth*, to conduct an inquest with the assistance of Henri-Jean McConville, a lawyer newly arrived from Montreal. Subpoenas were issued and 20 witnesses heard. One of John Christian Schultz*’s followers and one of Wolseley’s soldiers were identified as having been among Goulet’s pursuers and warrants for their arrest were prepared. No arrests, however, were ever made.
The circumstances at Red River at the time of Goulet’s death were unsettled. During the same period another Métis and an Irish-American were killed and two others, one of whom was André Nault, badly beaten, by unidentified assailants. All were acts of revenge for the death of Scott and no official action to punish the culprits was ever taken, apparently for fear of bringing on a general uprising. Members of the Canadian faction who favoured annexation to Canada were angry at what they considered the treason of Riel and his supporters during the preceding year, while the Métis and other Red River natives felt justified in their resistance to Canadian aggression and were deeply resentful of the proscription of Louis Riel and the others who had forced Canada to bargain for possession of Rupert’s Land. The government at Ottawa was informed of the details of the death of Goulet but apparently left all initiative about it to the reluctant local authorities.
PAM, MG 3, D1; MG 5, B2. Can., Sessional papers, 1871, III, no.5; V, no.20. Globe, 3 Oct. 1870. Morice, Dict. historique des Canadiens et Métis, 127–28. Dom [J.-P.-A.] Benoit, Vie de Mgr Taché, archevêque de Saint-Boniface (2v., Montréal, 1904), II, 85–126. R. B. Hill, Manitoba; history of its early settlement, development and resources (Toronto, 1890). Stanley, Louis Riel. L.-A. Prud’homme, “La famille Goulet,” RSC Trans., 3rd ser., XXIX (1935), sect.i, 23–41. Manitoba Free Press (Winnipeg), 3 Aug. 1911. Winnipeg Telegram, 18 July 1911.