Listuguj students march into N.B. to protest barrier to school
After march to school, Mi'kmaw students, supporters block traffic on bridge between 2 provinces
Mi'kmaw students from Listuguj First Nation in Quebec marched across the bridge to Campbellton on Friday and into Sugarloaf High School in defiance of COVID-19 rules.
About 60 students and parents from both sides of the J.C. Van Horne Bridge met at the school to make noise about New Brunswick border restrictions preventing students from Listuguj from attending class in person at their high school.
"This isn't a one-day thing," Listuguj Chief Darcy Gray said to protesters in front of Sugarloaf. "We have to find a solution that, no matter what, allows our students to get an education
"No matter what, we stand up for our kids and we know that Sugarloaf stands up for our kids, and those doors are open to our kids."
With some exceptions, people are not allowed to cross the Quebec border into New Brunswick during the COVID-19 pandemic. For a while, New Brunswick maintained a travel bubble with Listuguj and nearby Point-a-la-Croix, but the bubble ended Oct. 8 because of the rising number of COVID cases in Quebec.
About 100 Lisguguj students who go to high school a bridge away in Campbellton had to move to online learning.
The RCMP escorted the protesters across the bridge over the Restigouche River and let them into the school before asking everyone to go home.
But some protesters merely moved back to the bridge and were still blocking traffic late Friday afternoon.
The protest, which started before noon, was organized by Sugarloaf student Jayden Parent, who is 18 and lives in Campbellton.
Parent said he'd had enough of not having his friends from Listuguj attend school with him.
"Everybody deserves a right to go to school," he said outside Sugarloaf.
Protesting students entered the school while parents stood outside, all wearing masks.
"Our children are hurting, they're suffering academically, they're suffering mentally," said Donna Metallic, who is the mother of Mi'kmaw student Ariel Metallic.
"We want to send a strong message."
Metallic said she is proud of her daughter and the other students for taking a stand.
N.B. waits for Quebec to respond
Education Minister Dominic Cardy repeated the position of the Progressive Conservative government — that whether Listuguj students are allowed back into Sugarloaf for class is up to Quebec, not New Brunswick.
New Brunswick has asked Quebec to set up checkpoints to restrict travel from elsewhere in Quebec to Listuguj and Pointe-à-la-Croix.
"We are still, after months waiting to hear from the government of Quebec on what they're planning to do to address an issue that is between their government and our government here in New Brunswick," Cardy told reporters.
"These kids from Listuguj are being caught in the middle, and I applaud their passion for education. Good on them, despite the fact I'm not going to encourage anyone to break the law."
Cardy said the Department of Education opened a learning centre in Listuguj for the students being denied entry into New Brunswick.
They are getting their classes online with the help of some of the department's staff and equipment.