FREDERICTON (GNB) – The following statement was issued today by Nathalie Chiasson, chair of the New Brunswick Human Rights Commission, on the occasion of National Aboriginal Day, June 21:

The day celebrates its 20th anniversary this year with the theme 20 Years of Strong and Vibrant Cultures and Traditions. It is an opportunity for us to highlight the heritage, contributions, and culture of First Nations, Inuit and Métis across Canada. June 21, which corresponds to the summer solstice, is the longest day of the year and was chosen owing to its significance for many Aboriginal people.

According to the 2011 census, nearly 22,700 New Brunswickers are Aboriginal. New Brunswick has 15 distinct and diverse First Nation communities, including six Maliseet (or Wolastoqiyik) along the St. John River and nine Mi'kmaq communities along the province’s east and north shores.

On this day, it is necessary to educate ourselves and accentuate our collaboration to eliminate the systematic discrimination against the First Nation peoples of New Brunswick.

In this regard, recent events have marked our history and deserve to be highlighted: the final report of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the establishment of a National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in December 2015, as well as the announcement this past May that Canada now fully supports the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

In New Brunswick, I underscore the partnership between the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development and the Bouton d'or Acadie publishing house, which aims to showcase the indigenous cultures of our province and to answer the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Their initiative resulted in the discovery of six books from the Wabanaki collection by young people attending a francophone school in Neguac. The books present First Nation stories published in English, French, and an Aboriginal language (Mi'kmaq or Passamaquoddy).

These events encourage us to establish a new relationship with First Nation people, to fully participate in improving our understanding of the culture of the other through the sharing, recognition of their rights and way of life, and respect and co-operation.

To that end, I invite you to take part in gatherings that showcase the First Nation culture and heritage by participating in powwows, festivals and indigenous activities organized in the province and use them to learn more about Aboriginal customs, history and traditions.

Since 1967, the New Brunswick Human Rights Commission has protected and promoted the values associated with human rights, such as respect, appreciation for diversity, and absence of discrimination. The commission will turn 50 in 2017, a year that will be a focal point for expanding recognition of the basic principle that all human beings are equal in dignity and rights.