Fredericton raises Wolastoqey flag to mark first Day for Truth and Reconciliation
‘Take the time to educate yourself,’ says chief of St. Mary’s First Nation
Dozens of people gathered outside Fredericton City Hall for a ceremony and flag raising to mark the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Thursday.
The Wolastoqey flag was permanently raised and the flag for St. Mary's First Nation will be added to the city council chambers for the first time.
The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation was made a federal statutory holiday in June. It was recommended under the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's 94 calls to action.
It honours the children who died, survivors and communities still impacted by the legacy of the residential schools.
The day was formally recognized by Fredericton and other New Brunswick municipalities, despite the provincial government choosing not to make it an official holiday. People gathered across Canada to mark the day.
The New Brunswick capital city's event included a prayer and smudging ceremony by Elder Maggie Paul, and drumming and singing by the group The Sisters of the Drum.
Community members, wearing orange shirts to recognize the day, filled Phoenix Square outside City Hall and lined the sidewalk across the street.
The chief of St. Mary's First Nation addressed the crowd and called the day "a long time coming."
Chief Alan Polchies said he visited residential school survivors from his community in the morning.
"Their stories are deep and dark. And it's our time to ensure the path moving forward, that we all heal together," he said. "That we make a difference for the next generation and all the children that are unborn."
Polchies said the symbolic raising of the Wolastoq flag in the city is meaningful.
"I ask you moving forward to take the time to educate yourself, your neighbours and your friends that may not understand," he said.
The flag represents the five Wolastoqey Nations in a design created by artist Natalie Sappier.
Mayor Kate Rogers said the day for her is about strengthening relationships and building friendships with the Wolastoqiyik people of the region.
"Canada's National Day of Truth and Reconciliation is really about doing the work of being an ally to Indigenous peoples every day of the year," she said.
Fredericton City Hall will be lit orange until Oct. 1 and two crosswalks have been painted orange to also mark the day.
Support is available for anyone affected by the lingering effects of residential school and those who are triggered by the latest reports.
A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for residential school survivors and others affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.