Trail leader weighs in on Metis ruling
“Until the day she died, my mother would not admit she was Metis,” recalled Myrt Servatius.
The Trail resident grew up in Prince Albert and, as a child, never understood the deep roots of Metis culture that is part of her heritage.
“Back then, people didn’t want to admit to being Metis,” said Servatius, president of the Kootenay South Metis Society.
“Once out of their own area, people weren’t accepted, and called half-breeds.”
After the death of her mother, Servatius discovered her grandfather’s documents, which made it possible to trace her lineage.
Through the University of Saskatchewan, Servatius has learned of her Scottish and Cree heritage.
“That’s when I got excited,” said Servatius.
“I am proud to be Metis.”
Servatius has fond memories of sitting in a circle around her grandfather’s rocking chair, listening to stories that had been handed down through the generations.
“My great-grandfather was Jose Bremner, who fought with Louis Riel in the 1885 resistance,” she said.
“He would tell stories of the rebellion and the olden days,” said Servatius.
“As a small child, I didn’t understand the importance of the stories he was telling.”
Of the many years it took Servatius to learn of her Métis heritage, she believes that it will be a few more until she sees any ramification of the recent federal court ruling accepting Metis as “Indians”.
On Jan. 8, the Federal Court of Canada handed down a ruling that will affect the lives of 300 Kootenay residents with Metis origin.
The decision from the federal court judge Michael Phelan ended a 13-year battle between the Metis and the federal government.
In simple terms, the ruling means that people of Metis descent are recognized as “Indian” within the meaning of the expression “Indians and land reserved for Indians” as written in the Constitution Act of 1867.
“The decision means that we will now be recognized as a people under federal jurisdiction,” said Bruce Dumont, president of Metis Nation British Columbia, in an interview with the Trail Times.
“Part and parcel with that is that our province will now have to recognize the Metis as its own people,” commented Dumont.
“We are Metis people with our own culture, history and language.”
However, Dumont said that even though the decision is effective immediately, outcomes would take a few years to sort out.
According to Dumont, the decision will probably be appealed in the federal court and ultimately end up in the Supreme Court of Canada.
“It is quite possible that this decision could be overturned,” he said.
“But until that time, the ruling stands.”
Dumont said that Metis have always lobbied and pressed the government for equality and benefits equal to “our first nation cousins.”
“We are looking into benefits to our health care, education, and housing,” he said.
“Additionally, we are asking for our rights and titles for hunting, fishing and gathering.”