FREDERICTON (GNB) – The recipients of the 2023 New Brunswick Human Rights Awards were honoured during a ceremony today at Government House in Fredericton.

Provincial organization Pride in Education received the Human Rights Award, and Sydona Chandon of Fredericton received the Youth Human Rights Award.

“The 2023 award recipients exemplify the principles of equality and inclusion,” said Lt.-Gov. Brenda L. Murphy. “Each in their own way, Pride in Education and Sydona Chandon have worked tirelessly to bring New Brunswickers together while defending the interests of marginalized people. Their efforts have removed barriers and created more accessible, equitable, and diverse spaces where everyone can be comfortable being themselves.”

“Our Pride in Education team is honoured and beyond grateful to receive this prestigious Human Rights Award,” said Gail Costello, co-chair of the organization. “After watching the harm perpetrated upon 2SLGBTQIA+ students in our educational system, a group of teachers created Pride in Education in 2009 to start creating safe, inclusive schools for these at-risk students.”

The organization, also co-chaired by Christina Barrington, aims to create inclusive learning environments for all students in the province. They have led policy changes that protect 2SLGBTQIA+ students and staff in schools; have created and provided training and resources to educators; and have organized events and activities that promote diversity and acceptance.

“The New Brunswick Human Rights Act was amended in 1992 to include sexual orientation as a prohibited ground of discrimination and, more recently, in 2017 to include gender identity or expression as a prohibited ground of discrimination,” said New Brunswick Human Rights Commission chair Phylomène Zangio. “As newer rights recognized in the act, a lot of education was required and continues to be required to foster understanding and awareness about these rights.”

Sydona Chandon, this year’s Youth Human Rights Award recipient, graduated from St. Thomas University in 2022, leaving behind an incredible legacy of empowering students from various backgrounds, including international and racialized students. During her university years, she served as the vice-president of education and a board director at the New Brunswick Student Alliance. She was also one of the organizers of the first Emancipation Day in New Brunswick in August 2021, an annual celebration which commemorates the abolishment of slavery across the British Empire.

“Growing up I was always taught that change began with those who were bold enough to believe in it, and much of my work in advocating or defending students derives from that boldness,” said Chandon. “The bravery to believe that we all deserve the right to equally have a space in this world. The right to equal access of education, the right to proper housing, the right to exist regardless of the colour of your skin.”

“Sydona sacrificed much of her personal time at St. Thomas University to inspire and uplift others, often working long hours to attend advocacy meetings and do community work through her many associations,” said Zangio. “Since graduating, she continues to assist the New Brunswick Student Alliance, demonstrating an admirable commitment to championing human rights and being an active voice for New Brunswick youth.”

The award was established by the commission in 1988 to mark the 40th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In 2019, the commission presented its first Youth Human Rights Award to recognize the contributions of young New Brunswickers. Typically presented on Sept. 15, to align with New Brunswick Human Rights Day, the awards celebrate individuals and organizations who have worked tirelessly to advance human rights, equality, diversity, and inclusion in the province and make New Brunswick a better place to live.

The award is a sculpture of walnut and maple designed and crafted by Lawrence Wuest of Cross Creek and is on permanent public display at Government House.