Saskatchewan

Investigating the Sask. judge who visited teepee camp is 'silly': U of S Indigenous Law Centre director

A law professor says it's ludicrous to investigate a Saskatchewan judge for visiting a teepee camp that was set up to raising awareness of Indigenous youth suicide.

Justice Graeme Mitchell faces a review by the Canadian Judicial Council

There were 89 portraits of people who have died by suicide placed on the on the legislative grounds this summer. Organizer Tristen Durocher said the portraits were to remind people that there was a person there, not just a statistic. (Declan Finn/CBC)

A law professor says it's ludicrous to investigate a Saskatchewan judge for visiting a teepee camp that was set up to raise awareness of Indigenous youth suicide.

Justice Graeme Mitchell is facing a review from the Canadian Judicial Council following a complaint from an unknown source. Mitchell visited the camp this summer and was given a traditional Métis sash after rejecting the Saskatchewan government's request to have the camp removed from the grounds of the legislature.

"Sentencing circle judges go and sit in sweat lodges, in communities. They've gone to listen to songs and dances in the middle of their cases, and no one's called them out on it. It's quite silly," said Marilyn Poitras, director of the University of Saskatchewan Indigenous Law Centre.

Poitras also visited the camp over the summer, and was impressed by the commitment of Indigenous youth to fight for others who were suffering.

University of Saskatchewan Indigenous Law Centre director Marilyn Poitras says it's silly to investigate a Saskatchewan judge for visiting a camp raising awareness of Indigenous youth suicide. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC)

The youth included Tristen Durocher, who walked from La Ronge to Regina and conducted a 44-day fast. He and others set up a teepee on the grounds of the legislature, accompanied by oversized photos of youth who have died.

The provincial government asked a judge to order the camp be removed. Mitchell, who has decades of experience in constitutional law, ruled in Durocher's favour and said the camp should stay.

Poitras says the complaint appears to be political and has no merit.

She said she actually welcomes the review, and is confident it will vindicate Mitchell and help the justice system move toward reconciliation.

Tristen Durocher fasted for 44-days and erected a teepee camp on the Saskatchewan legislative grounds. The judge who ruled in his favour, and then visited the camp, is now under review for his actions. (Radio-Canada)

"I think that acts like this, this crazy act of a Queen's Bench judge going to a park in Regina to see what's going on could kick some doors open," she said.

It's unclear how long the Council's review will take. If the council rules against Mitchell, he could face sanctions including removal.

Poitras said that no matter what happens in legal circles, the spotlight needs to remain on Durocher's fight to end Indigenous youth suicide.

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