New Brunswick

First Nation communities to lead 'Resilience Day' events on July 1

First Nation communities in New Brunswick will hold events on July 1 in remembrance of the hundreds of children whose remains were found on the grounds of residential schools across Canada.

Traditional Canada Day festivities have been cancelled across the province

Shoes and other tokens of remembrance make up a memorial on Parliament Hill. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

First Nation communities in New Brunswick will hold events on July 1 in remembrance of the hundreds of children whose remains have been found on the grounds of residential schools across Canada.

Communities across the province have opted to cancel Canada Day celebrations in the wake of the horrific discoveries, most recently in Saskatchewan, where 751 unmarked graves were discovered near the site of the former Marieval Indian Residential School. 

Instead, several communities have opted to hold "Resilience Day" events.

Plans for the events were forged during conversations among leaders in several First Nations communities, including St. Mary's Chief Allan Polchies Jr. and Maliseet Nation Conservation Council executive director Patricia Saulis.

Polchies says Resilience Day will be a day of reflection. 

"This is all about education, educating the general public on what happened at residential schools and why we hadn't heard about it until recently."

Chief Allan Polchies is one of the organizers of Resilience Day, which will take place in the Fredericton area on July 1. (Shane Fowler )

"We need to be able to share with our neighbours and to have everyone understand [that] the First Nations people were the first people here on these lands," he said.

"The newcomers, the anglophones, the francophones, they need to sit with us on that particular day to reflect on what has happened in the dark history of Canadian policies."

The events are being organized by Possesom Paul, a member of St. Mary's or Sitansisk whose media company, Double Curve Media, focuses on telling Indigenous stories across the Maritimes.

"This is an Indigenous-led event, so we'll be asking our allies and our dignitaries to follow our lead in this time," Paul said. 

Resilience Day will take place in Fredericton on July 1, in remembrance of the children whose remains were found on the grounds of residential schools in western Canada. (Double Curve Media)

"It's very important that as we are taking this space to heal and acknowledge our people and our children, that allies take this chance to really educate themselves and listen."

Events will begin at 5:30 a.m. with a sunrise ceremony at the Old Burial Ground in downtown Fredericton. The ceremony will be led by Wolastoq Grand Chief Ron Tremblay and will include a sacred fire.

Possesom Paul is the lead coordinator for Resilience Day. (Possesem Paul)

A healing walk will follow at noon, starting at the Fredericton Public Library parking lot on Carleton Street and moving toward Government House on Woodstock Road, where shoes will be left in commemoration of the children whose remains were discovered.

Attendees will then walk to the Old Burial Ground, where further ceremonies, including drumming and an educational panel, will take place. 

In an email, a spokesperson for the province's Aboriginal Affairs department confirmed Premier Blaine Higgs, Aboriginal Affairs Minister Arlene Dunn and others will attend the event.

Call for a commitment to action

Paul says his community is carrying "a great sadness."

"But we're also looking at everyone and saying 'This is what we've been saying, are you listening?' " he said.

"So these next couple of months are going to be very integral to show what sort of Canada we will create together." 

Resilience Day is a starting point, he said.

But it must be followed up with a commitment to action. 

"We always do this when these things happen in Canada," Paul said.

"We rush forward, we put a lot of intention into our words and actions. And then everything goes quiet and we go back to the status quo."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nojoud Al Mallees

Reporter/Producer

Nojoud Al Mallees covers economics for The Canadian Press. She's based in Ottawa.

With files from Information Morning Fredericton

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