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Aboriginal Affairs Minister Arlene Dunn speaks before a committee of the legislature on April 26, 2023. Image: Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick video capture

N.B. won’t change change Saint John River name to Wolastoq

By Brad Perry Apr 28, 2023 | 1:41 PM

New Brunswick has no plans to change the name of the Saint John River back to Wolastoq, despite requests from Indigenous leaders.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Arlene Dunn made the comments during a committee meeting in the legislature on Wednesday.

“There is no intention of renaming the Saint John River,” Dunn said in response to a question from Green Party leader David Coon.

“It is crossing international boundaries and it’s not something that’s going to be on the government’s radar in terms of making that change.”

Dunn was appearing before the Standing Committee on Estimates and Fiscal Policy to answer questions related to the main estimates for Aboriginal Affairs and Opportunities New Brunswick.

Following up on Dunn’s response, Coon said he was “sad to hear” the government will now follow through with the change.

“It’s not a question of renaming, it’s just reinstating its actual name. The name it’s had for thousands and thousands and thousands of years,” he said.

The river’s name was changed in 1604 by French explorer Samuel de Champlain, who called it Fleuve Saint-Jean, which translates to Saint John River.

The six chiefs of the Wolastoqey Nation requested in 2021 that the name be reverted back to Wolastoq.

Last year, the province’s commissioner on systemic racism recommended it be called ‘Wolastoq Saint John.’

“Wolastoq is its name. They’re just requesting that it be officially recognized,” said Coon.


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