Truth and reconciliation day to be provincial holiday, says N.B. premier

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Last year, dozens of community members filled Phoenix Square outside Fredericton City Hall for a ceremony to mark the first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation.  (Alexandre Silberman/CBC - image credit)
Last year, dozens of community members filled Phoenix Square outside Fredericton City Hall for a ceremony to mark the first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation. (Alexandre Silberman/CBC - image credit)

The province has declared Sept. 30 a provincial holiday in recognition of National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

In a news release Thursday, Premier Blaine Higgs said he "encourages New Brunswickers to take a moment to pause and reflect upon what we can do as individuals to advance reconciliation."

Mi'gmawe'l Tplu'taqnn, the Mi'kmaq chiefs in New Brunswick, put out their own statement Thursday, which acknowledged their relationship with the Higgs government has been "strained."

"Recognizing this holiday does not reconcile issues or differences with the Higgs government but it is a step in the right direction," their statement said.

The day is set aside to honour residential school and day school victims and survivors, they said, including those who attended the Sussex Vale day school and the Shubenacadie residential school in Nova Scotia.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press
Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

By granting the holiday, the chiefs said, the province is allowing people to reflect on "how we can learn from each other and work together," as treaty partners.

Schools in New Brunswick will be closed on Sept. 30. along with government departments and agencies, however all essential services, such as health care, will "continue to be delivered," the province said.

The holiday is optional for the private sector.

Last year, the Higgs government did not recognize the inaugural National Day for Truth and Reconciliation as a provincial holiday.

All provincial services, including schools, were business as usual on Sept. 30, 2021, which left some municipalities making the call to close town offices anyway.

In June, Green Party Leader David Coon introduced a motion that would see the day officially recognised in the province.

Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, Arlene Dunn, proposed amendments, including removing any reference to unceded and unsurrendered territory. Amendments were also made to state that while the federal government established a national Day for Truth and Reconciliation to remember the legacy of residential schools in Canada, there were no residential schools in New Brunswick.

The motion passed with the amendments, something chiefs of the six Wolastoqey First Nations in New Brunswick said at the time "stripped" the motion of the truth.