The McMurray Métis want a public apology from the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo for the relocation and eviction of at least 14 Indigenous families in the 1970s.
CEO of the McMurray Métis Bill Loutit called out the mayor on Wednesday at a truth and reconciliation sharing circle hosted by the municipality.
Loutit requested an apology from the mayor, which he received at the public event. But in an interview, Loutit said that the onus shouldn’t just be on Mayor Don Scott to apologize.
“I think that it should come from the council really. It shouldn’t be up to Don to have to be the scapegoat, to have to take all the flak on stuff that should be going through council.”
Loutit said the Métis and municipality had a few discussions over the last year, but he wants to reignite the conversation.
From the late 1970s to the early ’80s, at least 14 Indigenous families were evicted from an area of Fort McMurray called Moccasin Flats.
The families were evicted so infrastructure projects, including a high rise for Syncrude employees, could be built.
Last year, the McMurray Métis commissioned a study that examined the history and effects of the relocation. The report also included recommendations for reconciliation.
A public apology is part of the recommendations. The study also suggests returning 4.3 acres of land to the McMurray Métis somewhere along the Snye or Clearwater Rivers.
Loutit said the Métis would like to build a cultural centre on the land as a way to preserve and celebrate their culture.
“I do know that a cultural centre does offer the opportunity for our youth to be proud of their heritage,” said Loutit.
Loutit doesn’t think it’s “out of line” to ask for 4.3 acres of land because that’s the size that was taken away from Indigenous families all those years ago.
Over many years, the McMurray Métis has tried to get land from the municipality, said Loutit.
“They’ve been able to find land for dog parks, horse pastures … yet when we ask, they cannot find a spot for Métis.”
“That’s very concerning when all these other things have a higher priority to them than the people that were originally in this area.”
He added that he wants to work with the municipality on reconciliation instead of bringing the issue to court.
The mayor has reached out to the McMurray Métis and invited them to meet and talk about the issue.
“Our council is committed to moving forward in the spirit of reconciliation on the issue of Moccasin Flats,” Scott said in an emailed statement to CBC News.
He added that he made a public commitment at the sharing circle to give an update within 60 days.
“All of my council colleagues have a strong commitment to our Indigenous partners in the region, and I support their hard work and commitment.”