FREDERICTON (GNB) - The following statement was issued today by Claire Roussel-Sullivan, chair of the New Brunswick Human Rights Commission, to mark the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation:

This Sept. 30, Canada and New Brunswick commemorate the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. This day honours the victims and survivors of the residential school system and recognizes its ongoing impact on First Nation families and communities.

This year, we mourn the discovery of thousands of unmarked graves found at residential school sites all over Canada. Let this be a reminder of the incredibly damaging system that forcibly separated Indigenous children from their families, forced assimilation to Western culture through violence, and caused great suffering to First Nations, Inuit, and Metis communities for decades.

Although residential schools have closed, their colonial legacy continues as First Nation Communities experience higher incarceration and poverty rates, lower educational attainment, higher suicide rates, inadequate housing conditions, food insecurity, and lower life expectancy rates. First Nations women are also three times more likely to be killed by a stranger than non-Indigenous women, and experience higher rates of domestic violence and abuse.

Beyond commemorating Sept. 30 and mourning this painful moment in Canada’s history, I invite New Brunswickers to utilize it as an opportunity to reflect and educate themselves about intergenerational trauma in Indigenous communities and the colonial legacy of residential schools. In order to achieve true reconciliation with First Nations communities, we must take the first step towards recognizing our painful past and follow the lead of Indigenous communities to pave the road for healing and change in our society.

Former Residential School students can call 1-866-925-4419 for emotional crisis referral services and information on other health support from the Government of Canada. Indigenous peoples across Canada can also go to The Hope for Wellness Help Line 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for counselling and crisis intervention.