Court orders justice camp protesters out of Regina's Wascana Park
Protesters plan to stay for the weekend, Regina police hope for 'peaceful resoultion'
A Court of Queen's Bench judge is ordering the Justice for Our Stolen Children Camp out of Wascana Park.
In a decision released Friday, court documents said police are authorized to arrest and remove people who are knowingly contravening the order by remaining in the Regina park.
"We are pleased with the decision made by the court," Minister of Central Services Ken Cheveldayoff said in an emailed statement.
Cheveldayoff said he expects the camp to be removed in "a reasonable time" but reiterated the Wascana Centre Authority and police's power to remove the camp if it does not comply.
"Again, we are fully supportive of peaceful protests but the act of overnight camping, burning combustibles and erecting structures in the park cannot be done without the proper permits and approvals, as confirmed by today's court order," Cheveldayoff said.
Granted permission to stay the weekend
Protester and group spokesperson Robyn Pitawanakwat told reporters they plan to stay for the weekend, saying her understanding is they were granted permission to stay for that period. She would not comment on what will happen beyond that time.
"What's hard for us right now is that the issues that we've brought forward in this camp are still not being heard. I think that is the most frustrating part of this decision."
"Right now we want the focus to be on the issues of Indigenous youth and Indigenous children and the lack of justice that they have here in the province of Saskatchewan."
She said "there's an open line of communication" with the province through a lawyer.
Police hope for 'peaceful resolution'
A police spokesperson said Regina Police Service chief Evan Bray will read through the decision "and consult with stakeholders."
"As the Regina Police Service retains discretion as to the manner of enforcement of the Order, there is time to communicate with all parties with the goal of achieving a peaceful resolution," the statement read.
Bray has previously said there will be no action from police unless there is a threat to public safety.
The camp set up in February and has remained on the lawn of the Legislative Building in Regina since then. Police moved in and made several arrests in June, but no charges were laid.
Early in June, the camp was given an eviction notice, but the protesters did not comply.
Justice Ysanne Wilkinson wrote in her decision that the protesters effectively usurped the area where they set up camp and have excluded "the public at large" from exercising their own Charter rights in the park.
She said this conclusion is supported by several groups who had acquired the proper documentation and authorization to use the west lawn but were prevented from doing so by the camp's presence.
"The protesters deny any intent to assert exclusive dominion over the West Lawn. The reality, however, is that the exclusive occupation, continuous and uninterrupted, has occurred for the past six months, save for the brief interlude when the camp was dismantled," Wilkinson said.
Another case of system failing First Nations: FSIN
Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Chief Bobby Cameron, who was in support of the protesters, called the judge's decision upsetting and frustrating.
"It's rather unfortunate because here we go with another case of the justice system failing First Nations people."
"All we ever wanted and will continue to advocate and lobby for is positive change in the child welfare system, the social services system and the justice system," Cameron said, adding that court order or not, such changes still need to happen.
In a statement, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde called the situation "outrageous."
"All child and family systems must be transformed, so that our children enjoy safe, stable and comfortable homes with their families. We urge the courts and the police to recognize the need for change in this area," Bellegarde said, adding peaceful activism around this issue ought to be respected.
Protesters and the provincial government launched separate court action over the justice camp earlier this summer. The province sought to order a court order to have the camp removed.
The protesters filed their own legal action seeking a declaration that their camp is protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the arrest of six protesters on June 18 was unconstitutional.
Wilkinson noted that any commotion, such as a Yorkton man firing roman candles or another man doing the Nazi salute, are from counter-protesters but that those incidents were a factor nonetheless.
Those incidents are "a very real prospect that tensions may escalate and that the 'tragedy of commons' ... is a meaningful concern for those fixed with the responsibility of maintaining public safety and order," Wilkinson wrote.
Read the full decision here: