AFN chief to set up teepee to support Justice For Our Stolen Children camp

Perry Bellegarde says he will be putting up a teepee at the Justice for Our Stolen Children camp in Regina to show his solidarity with the protesters.

Perry Bellegarde visited the camp on Sunday

AFN Chief Perry Bellegarde visits the Justice For Our Stolen Children Camp on Sunday to speak with protesters and show his support. (@perrybellegarde/Twitter)

The chief of the Assembly of First Nations  says he will be putting up a teepee at the Justice for Our Stolen Children camp in Regina to show his solidarity with the protesters.

Perry Bellegarde visited the camp on Sunday to "hear directly from them on the systemic discrimination within the legal system and the failures of the child welfare system."

The camp was set up in Wascana Park across from the Legislative Assembly 163 days ago. Between 20 and 30 people have been camping there, demanding that the government make changes to the justice system and address what the protesters call an overrepresentation of Indigenous children in foster care.

"I was honoured to listen and speak with them about how I can support them and how the AFN can support them," Bellegarde said in a statement to CBC News on Thursday.

"I am currently making arrangements to set up a teepee at the camp to show support."

According to a Facebook post by the camp, Bellegarde has the canvas for the teepee, but no poles, so they are looking to the public to help.

Prescott Demas, who helped establish the camp, told CBC News having the AFN chief's support and presence at the camp "kind of shows that our leaders are acknowledging our issues here."

"All we're asking him for is support and a push for this government to hear our issues,"  Demas said. "The more of our leaders that come out to show their solidarity it's more of a push for this government to come out and deal with the issues that we have tabled with them."

Protest organizer Prescott Demas says he'd rather see the province address the issues the camp is talking about rather than taking the protesters to court. (CBC News)

Bellegarde says he is going to be contacting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, urging them to meet with representatives from the camp.

'Cease occupying the Land'

In another development, the Saskatchewan government is asking for a court order to remove the camp from Wascana.

The documents filed by the government ask the court to direct the campers to "cease occupying the Land" and that any orders made "be directed to the Chief of Police of the Regina Police Service."

In June, six campers were arrested when Regina police dismantled the camp. No charges were laid, and those arrested were released hours later. The campers rebuilt shortly after the arrests.

In response, Justice Minister Don Morgan said he expected police to enforce the rule of law and that the grounds are not intended for overnight camping. Fifteen teepees currently stand in the park.

The camp launched its own legal action, asking the court for a declaration that the protest is protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and that the June arrests were unconstitutional.

The Ministry of Justice expects the application for the government's court order will be heard the same time of the camp's legal action. That hearing date is set for Aug. 23. 

Bellegarde says the AFN is going to have an observer at the hearing. 

With files from Olivia Stefanovich and Stephanie Taylor