'A continual reminder of the genocide': First Nation drops Canadian, New Brunswick flags

·2 min read
The Madawaska Maliseet First Nation on Monday removed the Canadian and New Brunswick flags from in front of its band office in response to the growing number of human remains that have been found at the sites of former residential schools across Canada recently. (Submitted by Russ Letica - image credit)
The Madawaska Maliseet First Nation on Monday removed the Canadian and New Brunswick flags from in front of its band office in response to the growing number of human remains that have been found at the sites of former residential schools across Canada recently. (Submitted by Russ Letica - image credit)

A New Brunswick First Nation is no longer flying the Canadian and New Brunswick flags in response to the growing number of unmarked graves discovered at former residential school sites across Canada in recent weeks.

Madawaska Maliseet First Nation Chief Patricia Bernard said her community has been in mourning since the discovery last month of a burial site containing the remains of 215 children at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in B.C.

"We're sort of grappling with all the emotions and the relationship that we have on a nation-to-nation basis," she said.

On Monday, members of the community removed the two flags flying in front of its band office, and instead raised the community's own flag.

The flag removal came just days after the Cowessess First Nation announced a preliminary finding of 751 unmarked graves at a cemetery near the former Marieval Indian Residential School.

Hundreds more human remains have been found around the sites of other former residential schools across Canada in recent weeks.

Bernard said the move was prompted by a request from a community member.

It wasn't a difficult decision to make, she said.

Logan Perley/CBC
Logan Perley/CBC

"Currently we don't really have any kind of relationship with the federal government except their constitutional responsibility to us, and no relationship with the provincial government.

"You know, it's been strained to the point of not being able to sort of just pick up the phone and call the minister responsible for Aboriginal affairs ... There's no trust there."

A flag is flown for one purpose, she said, and that is "to demonstrate your pride."

"And at this point," she said, "there isn't really any pride in the relationship with the province and absolutely not with the federal government."

Submitted by Russ Letica
Submitted by Russ Letica

Russ Letica said he made the request to have the flags removed on Monday morning, and was pleased the band council acted quickly on it.

"I sent a request to my chief and council and asked them in lieu of 1,300-plus graves that have been recovered, and since we have absolutely no relationship with a federal government that continues to fail us and a provincial government that has no want to be in a relationship with us, that … we should not be flying those flags in our communities," Letica said.

"Those flags are a continual reminder of the genocide produced on the Indigenous people of this land."

Bernard said the two flags may be raised again in the future, but the provincial and federal governments would first have to take concrete steps to fix their relationships with Indigenous communities.

"Until that happens, until there's any type of attempts at real trust and real movement, how can you fly the flag of a country that you're not proud of?"

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