103-year-old woman becomes oldest B.C. Métis citizen in birthday ceremony

Gladys Goulet never thought she’d see that day she could proudly declare her Métis heritage in public.

The Manitoba-born woman, now a resident of Victoria, B.C., spent decades concealing her identity in a country that openly oppressed and shamed Indigenous peoples.

“You wouldn’t say it at one time — that’s how it was,” she told Global News, wearing a colourful woven Métis sash for the very first time.

On Tuesday, Goulet became the newest and oldest member of the Métis Nation British Columbia (MNBC) in a special ceremony on her 103rd birthday.

Her daughter Giselle Goulet was also awarded a citizenship card and “welcomed back to the Métis Nation” warmly.

Gladys Goulet, 103, receives her Métis citizenship card from Patrick Harriott, MNBC Minister of Citizenship and Community Services, at a ceremony in Victoria on Dec. 14, 2021. Facebook/Métis Nation British Columbia

“I’m really proud of her. I always have been proud of her,” Giselle said after the ceremony in Victoria.

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“Imagine living all those years of your life and feeling you have to hide or being ashamed that that’s what your heritage was.”

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Goulet was born in 1918 and orphaned at a young age after her family moved to Saskatchewan. She married, had three daughters and is a stepmother to four.

Eventually she and her husband Godfrey Goulet moved to Vancouver Island, where they ran two successful coffee shops.

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Giselle described her mother as a “tough cookie” —  hard-working and an “amazing” best friend.

She applied for Métis citizenship on Goulet’s behalf earlier this year as their family gradually reconnected with the culture. Her son, a veteran, also has MNBC citizenship.

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“We’d like to carry on that heritage, it’s very important that we know where our culture is, where we came from,” she explained.

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According to MNBC, many Métis are returning to the nation. The organization approved 400 new citizenship applications in November alone.

“I think it’s a renewed sense of pride, a renewed sense of identity, and I think people are becoming more aware of their family history and who the Métis people are,” said Patrick Harriot, MNBC Minister of Citizenship and Community Services.

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He said it gave him “shivers” to hear Goulet talk about finally being able to be openly Métis.

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“I only wish that my own great-grandmother could have celebrated that in her lifetime,” he said. “103 is something special.”

He gifted Goulet with her card, sash and a book about Métis cultural wellness.

Apart from the citizenship ceremony on Tuesday, Giselle said her mother has no other birthday plans.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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