New Brunswick public officials welcomed hundreds of Frederictonians to the provincial legislature Monday afternoon for New Brunswick Day and Emancipation Day celebrations.
Premier Blaine Higgs, Speaker of The House Bill Oliver and other officials took part in a flag-raising ceremony to officially mark the day.
Higgs told the crowd it was exciting for him to welcome the public back to the legislature for the second year of New Brunswick Day celebrations.
Eased COVID-19 public health rules in August 2021 caused a spike in cases after festivities, but Higgs said the province is now moving forward.
“Though the pandemic is still with us, working together, we continue to move in the right direction,” said Higgs.
“Our economy has been improving. We have seen unprecedented growth in our province, surpassing 800,000 residents for the first time in our history.”
During his speech, the premier also took time to recognize Emancipation Day, which honours the abolishment of slavery in Britain and its colonies in 1834.
The New Brunswick government unanimously passed a motion to officially recognize the day in June.
“Today and every day, I invite you to celebrate their contributions and acknowledge the black communities and leaders in our province and across our nation,” said Higgs.
Arlene Dunn, minister of immigration, aboriginal affairs, economic development and Opportunities NB, said the event is a proud one for her family.
“My mother-in-law … spent about 35 years of her life trying to eradicate racism and fighting for folks who typically don’t have the opportunity to participate in all the things that people who are white take for granted every single day,” said Dunn.
“I know she’s not with us here physically, but I know that she’s here in spirit.”
Dunn said while it is important to celebrate, New Brunswick cannot ignore the “dehumanizing history” Black residents endured because of their skin colour and racist attitudes.
She said there have been “sizeable gains” in the labour force status of racial minorities, but significant gaps still remain.
“Racism is not that simple as the word that we hear in our daily lives,” she said.
“Racism has damaged the lives and obliterated the dreams of many, many people.”
Dunn concluded with a final word that Emancipation Day is a day to reflect and educate about the ongoing fight against anti-Black racism and discrimination.
“Hatred and intolerance have no place in my New Brunswick, and they shouldn’t have a place in anyone else’s,” said Dunn.