Around 300 people participated in the Every Child Matters event held in Fredericton on Friday to honour the victims and survivors of the residential school system.
Clad in orange, Indigenous people and allies took part in ceremonies to remember ancestors, while renewing calls for change.
The events were part of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
Wolastoq Grand Council Chief Ron Tremblay sang songs and spoke of the atrocities against Indigenous people as he repeated the number 209.
Chief Tremblay said with a heavy heart, “I have a couple of signs today…209. 1787 to 1996 is the year residential schools were open. Think about that.”
He reminded the crowd that for 209 years, Indigenous children were taken from their homes and communities with no choice for themselves.
The NB Media Co-op recorded the ceremony with permission from Chief Ron Tremblay.
“It is our gathering,” Mike Solomon told NB Media Co-op. “As you can see, there is support from different nationalities and people…. And we have a sacred fire going on to honour them.”
Addressing the large crowd, Chief Tremblay said that the Indigenous children would no longer face the same fate as in the past, and the crowd erupted in applause.
The federal government proclaimed September 30th National Day for Truth and Reconciliation last year.
The provincial government didn’t declare it a provincial the holiday until last week. The Canadian Union of Public Employees attributed that decision in part to grievances by the union.
“At last, thanks to Indigenous activism, public pressure, grievances made by CUPE locals and more, the government of New Brunswick has also proclaimed it a statutory holiday,” CUPE NB president Steve Drost said in a statement.
Arun Budhathoki is a video-journalist with the NB Media Co-op. This project has been made possible in part by the Government of Canada, administered by the Canadian Association of Community Television Stations and Users (CACTUS).