FREDERICTON (GNB) – PRUDE Inc. of Saint John received the 2021 New Brunswick Human Rights Award and Bailey Desjardins of Grand Manan received the 2021 Youth Human Rights Award at ceremonies on Sept. 15 in Saint John and Fredericton.

New Brunswick Human Rights Commission chair Claire Roussel-Sullivan presented the awards in commemoration of New Brunswick Human Rights Day.

“It is important we celebrate individuals and organizations whose work exemplify the advancement of equality in this province. Their efforts should serve to inspire and guide us all, especially in these challenging times,” said Roussel-Sullivan. “I could not be prouder of the commission’s selection of both recipients this year. They are joining a prestigious group of New Brunswickers that continue to have a meaningful impact upon our society.”

PRUDE Inc. distinguished themselves through their efforts, achievements, and leadership focused on cultural diversity and inclusion in Saint John. Since 1981, it has welcomed all cultural communities to the city and has provided educational services to locals, newcomers, youth, and businesses. They offer a variety of programs such as Bridging Cultural Diversity, Work Bias Recognition, English for Youth, and Women’s Leadership. The organization is dedicated to breaking down racial stereotypes, educating the public about diversity and racism, and ensuring the full participation of all cultural communities in the province.

“We are supremely grateful the Human Rights Commission has honoured us with this award. It is an extra special honour for us, as 2021 is PRUDE's 40-year anniversary,” said Karen Hachey, board president. “Over the past 40 years, PRUDE has provided services and support for numerous communities in our region, starting in Saint John's Black community, widening out to the broader community and eventually including immigrants and refugees.”

“In addition, our women's leadership component has been beneficial in helping newcomer women get a firm start in Canada,” she said. “And our education work in area schools and businesses helps longtime Saint Johners understand the value of the region's growing diversity. On behalf of everyone involved with PRUDE over the past 40 years, from our founding members to our board of directors and current staff, we thank the commission for honouring our work and our vision with this award.”

The Youth Human Rights Award highlights the ability of young people to engage in promoting the values associated with human rights, such as respect, appreciation for diversity and the absence of discrimination. This award was presented to Bailey Desjardins for her outstanding community work in mental health and LGBTQIA2S+ advocacy in Grand Manan.

Desjardins participated in the Imagine NB program and created an educational project that connected youth to mental health resources in her community. Desjardins has also been a key member of the Grand Manan Community School’s Gender-Sexuality Alliance and has raised awareness about LGBTQIA2S+ issues in her area by attending provincial conferences such as Pride in Education and Outshine.

“My overall goal during my time at Grand Manan Community School was to ensure that everybody had a safe space to express who they truly are,” said Desjardins. “I wanted to educate students about discrimination and the fundamental rights and respect that everybody deserves, no matter what. I feel that my leadership experience with our local student council and through attending various conferences focusing on leadership, mental health, and gender and sexuality, has helped me greatly in these important endeavours.”

New Brunswick Human Rights Day is observed every Sept. 15 to commemorate the evolution, recognition and protection of human rights in the province. Since 1967, the commission has been responsible for enforcing the Human Rights Act. The organization is also responsible for the act’s evolution by recommending amendments to reflect societal changes.

The award, a sculpture of walnut and maple with the names of the recipients engraved on the base, is on permanent public display at Government House. It was established by the commission in 1988 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Each year, the award is given by the commission to an individual or group from New Brunswick that has shown outstanding effort, achievement and leadership on a volunteer basis in the promotion of human rights. Nominations are solicited from a wide variety of groups.