University of New Brunswick permanently raises Wolastoqey flag

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Wolastoqey flag permanently raised at University of New Brunswick
WATCH ABOVE: The University of New Brunswick marked Truth and Reconciliation Day by permanently raising the Wolastoqey and Wabanaki confederacy flags. The university says the symbolic gesture demonstrates its commitment to reconciliation. Silas Brown has more – Sep 30, 2023

The flags of the Wolastoqey Nation and the Wabanaki Confederacy rose for the first time on the University of New Brunswick’s Fredericton campus, where they’ll stay permanently as a reminder of the land the university sits on.

It’s one of the ways the university decided to mark Truth and Reconciliation Day.

“We thought in terms of our pathway to reconciliation, it’s a recognition that our university stands on the unceded and unsurrendered land of the Wolastoqey, but also, it’s an important symbol that we are committed to a path of truth and reconciliation,” said university president Paul Mazerolle.

Click to play video: 'How to commemorate National Day for Truth and Reconciliation'
How to commemorate National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

Emily Paul, a third-year student at UNB, is from Pabineau First Nation. She pushed to have the school take Monday off in lieu of Saturday’s holiday to give more time for reflection, which the university ultimately agreed to.

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She agrees that the flags are an important symbol and that more action is needed on the school’s part toward reconciliation.

“It’s a good step forward because it’s a permanent symbol on campus that acknowledges the fact that there were people here before the university was erected,” she said.

“When students drive by or walk by, to see that is really to set in stone that those people existed and still exist. It’s a great step and a great initiative but there’s a lot more work that can be done as well.”

Mazerolle says that as an education institution, UNB has a large role to play in reconciliation and is working to recruit more Indigenous students and staff, as well as ensuring that the history and culture of the region’s Indigenous Peoples are reflected.

“We need to look at further understanding of Indigenous ways of learning and knowing,” he said. “That means students need to be exposed to language, to culture, to history, to awareness around treaty and those rights.”

Sitansisk First Nation chief Alan Polchies says that the university needs to put that into action, particularly in how it supports Indigenous students.

“Educational institutions like this, they need to take a step back and see how they can work with (Indigenous students) to ensure they are getting a proper education, they are getting the space they need and more importantly the respect,” he said.

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Soon the Saint John campus will fly the flags as well, once new flagpoles have been installed.

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