FREDERICTON (GNB) – The following statement was issued today by Premier Blaine Higgs and Aboriginal Affairs Minister Arlene Dunn to mark National Indigenous Peoples Day:

It is a privilege to join all New Brunswickers in celebrating National Indigenous Peoples Day.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the creation of this special day of recognition, an occasion that has a special connection for New Brunswick. It was former Gov. Gen. Roméo LeBlanc who announced in 1996 that June 21 would be celebrated as what was then known as National Aboriginal Day. The fact that this day occurs on the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, also amplifies the importance of the date.

In 2017, the federal government renamed the day National Indigenous Peoples Day.

Today, New Brunswickers have an opportunity to learn more about the history, resilience and leadership of Indigenous peoples across Canada and throughout our province.

It is also an opportunity for all of us to reflect on the heartbreaking discovery in British Columbia recently. These tragic events in Kamloops point to a very dark period in our history.

The residential school system consisted of 140 schools across the country, funded by the national government and run by churches.

Last week, we met with First Nations chiefs in New Brunswick to discuss an investigation into the day schools in our province. The meeting was an important opportunity for our government to hear the chiefs’ concerns and have open discussions about how we can work together to address them.

We took the time to listen to the chiefs and we look forward to meeting again to discuss the path forward.

While we acknowledge the past, we must also share stories of strength and resilience.

This is a time for us as a government to listen, so that together, we can take an important step forward in making meaningful and lasting changes. We need to continue to build bridges; that is what today is about.

We cannot talk about building bridges without acknowledging we have had challenges on some important files.

Having said that, our government remains committed, together with First Nations leadership, to continuing the work on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action and bringing First Nations history into school curriculum around the province.

We have also recently begun discussions on a path toward sustainable and modern economic partnerships. We know there is plenty of work ahead of us, but we are confident we can achieve greater prosperity for all New Brunswickers and we feel strongly that First Nations are an integral part of that prosperity.

We wish all of you a happy and reflective National Indigenous Peoples Day.