Hundreds gather in Fredericton for healing walk to mark 'Resilience Day'

·3 min read
Hundreds can be seen here at the Government House on Woodstock Road at the end of a healing walk to mark Resilience Day, planned by the Wolastoqey Nation in place of Canada Day. (Gary Moore/CBC - image credit)
Hundreds can be seen here at the Government House on Woodstock Road at the end of a healing walk to mark Resilience Day, planned by the Wolastoqey Nation in place of Canada Day. (Gary Moore/CBC - image credit)

WARNING: This story contains distressing details.

Hundreds gathered at noon at the Fredericton Public Library for a healing walk to mark "Resilience Day," planned by the Wolastoqey Nation in place of Canada Day.

This follows the discovery of unmarked graves across the country near the sites of former residential schools.

Close to 800 people were seen walking from the library to Government House on Woodstock Road.

This Resilience Day event is one of many being held across the country as many grapple with the ongoing traumas of colonialism and reflect on the moral obligation facing those who are non-Indigenous to better educate themselves and help Indigenous communities.

In Fredericton, many laid down children's shoes at Government House to honour those forced to attend residential schools and subjected to inhumane conditions by staff.

Earlier in the day, a sunrise ceremony was also held at the Old Burial Ground in downtown Fredericton, where a ceremony and drumming took place after the walk.

Gary Moore/CBC
Gary Moore/CBC

Allan Tremblay and his family travelled from Tobique First Nation to participate in the walk.

"It affects us because all First Nations people, we're all related," he said.

"I don't care what part of the country you live in because I've worked for the federal government from Nova Scotia to British Columbia and the problems are the same ... the experiences are the same."

St. Mary's First Nation Chief Allan Polchies Jr. was one of the main organizers of the events held today.

Gary Moore/CBC
Gary Moore/CBC

For him and other organizers, it was important to involve all communities in the province to encourage greater education on the harms residential schools have wrought upon Indigenous peoples.

"We're going to educate one another on what residential school was and what it has done," he said.

"Pure genocide."

Premier Blaine Higgs and Minister of Aboriginal Affairs Arlene Dunn attended the healing walk and spoke to the media afterwards.

Higgs said it was important for members of government to be present at events like the healing walk.

"We've seen most recently in the discovery of these unmarked graves how traumatic that would have been for families ... we can all say, 'We weren't here,' but our country was built upon the foundation that we've seen over our history," he said.

Gary Moore/CBC
Gary Moore/CBC

Dunn said the government is working to rectify the harm that institutions have caused Indigenous peoples. She mentioned policies around child care and health care, and ensuring that children were in environments that were safe and "culturally appropriate."

Dunn was also asked about a controversial birth alert system that can lead to the apprehension of newborns from parents and why the province still had it in place. She said the government is reviewing the policy and hopes to scrap it.

Government officials have met with Wolastoqey Nation chiefs to disucss an investigation into day schools in the province, said Dunn. She said they're awaiting a proposal from the chiefs on how to proceed.

Gary Moore/CBC
Gary Moore/CBC

Support is available for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools, and those who are triggered by the latest reports.

A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for survivors and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.

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