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New Brunswick honours advocates for human rights in annual ceremony

by HR Law Canada

The New Brunswick Human Rights Commission recognized exemplary contributions to human rights today in a ceremony at Government House in Fredericton.

Provincial organization Pride in Education and Sydona Chandon of Fredericton were the recipients of the 2023 Human Rights Award and the Youth Human Rights Award, respectively.

Lieutenant Governor Brenda L. Murphy stated that the honorees “exemplify the principles of equality and inclusion.” She further noted that both Pride in Education and Ms. Chandon have “worked tirelessly to bring New Brunswickers together while defending the interests of marginalized people.”

Pride in Education, co-chaired by Gail Costello and Christina Barrington, was formed in 2009 by a group of educators aiming to foster inclusive school environments for 2SLGBTQIA+ students. The organization has since initiated policy changes to protect these students and staff in schools. It has also offered training resources to teachers and organized events that promote diversity and acceptance.

Costello said the team at Pride in Education was “honoured and beyond grateful” for the award. She emphasized that the organization was created as a response to the “harm perpetrated upon 2SLGBTQIA+ students” and their mission has been to make schools safer and more inclusive.

The New Brunswick Human Rights Commission chair, Phylomène Zangio, pointed out the province’s progressive steps in human rights. She mentioned that the New Brunswick Human Rights Act was amended in 1992 to include sexual orientation and again in 2017 to include gender identity or expression as prohibited grounds of discrimination.

Sydona Chandon, a 2022 graduate of St. Thomas University, was honored for her advocacy work empowering international and racialized students. She has served as vice-president of education and a board director at the New Brunswick Student Alliance. Chandon was also a key organizer for New Brunswick’s first Emancipation Day celebration in August 2021, which commemorates the abolition of slavery across the British Empire.

Chandon expressed her belief in the necessity of bold action for change, stating, “The bravery to believe that we all deserve the right to equally have a space in this world.”

The awards, established in 1988 to mark the 40th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, were presented as part of an annual tradition aligned with New Brunswick Human Rights Day on September 15. This year’s sculpture award, designed and crafted by Lawrence Wuest of Cross Creek, will be on permanent public display at Government House.

These awards, said Lt.-Gov. Murphy, 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.”

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