Canada Day festivities moved as more teepees arrive at legislature grounds

Some Canada Day activities are being moved due to a camp set up near the legislature in Regina.

Camp supporters say Wascana Park has enough space for everyone

The Justice for Our Stolen Children camp has grown to include more teepees, standing at the grounds across from the legislature. On Saturday, the camp will host a pre-Canada celebration at the site. (Glenn Reid/CBC News)

As Canada Day festivities near, the commission responsible for Wascana Park is saying it now must move some of its planned activities, due to the Justice for Our Stolen Children protest. 

"On three separate occasions, the Provincial Capital Commission (PCC) has officially requested that the Regina Police Service enforce the law and remove the structures," stated a news release from the Provincial Capital Commission.

"PCC has bylaws in place that prohibit overnight camping, placement of structures and burning wood and other combustibles."

The camp started shortly after the February acquittals of Gerald Stanley and Raymond Cormier in the Colten Boushie and Tina Fontaine murder trials, respectively. Camp founders said the intention was to draw attention to Indigenous lives lost or affected due to factors like violence, foster care or addiction.

Police shut down the camp last week and arrested some protesters. Campers have since returned, and what was once a camp of a single teepee has grown to nine teepees as of Wednesday afternoon.

"It is disappointing that last minute changes are necessary to an event that requires year-round planning because of an unpermitted and illegal protest," PCC executive director Carrie Ross said in the release.

"We have bylaws and permits in place to ensure Wascana Park is available for everyone to use in a safe manner, and we are again asking the Regina Police Service to enforce the law."

Regina police Chief Evan Bray told reporters Wednesday that the police don't have any intention of taking the Justice for our Stolen Children camp down unless it becomes a public safety risk. 

Bray said that the protest was peaceful and posed no risk to residents.

"We assess it multiple times a day, we make sure that there's no risk to the public, which at this point, we don't feel that there is," Bray said. 

Protesters say response 'bad faith'

Camp organizers said Wednesday they expected more teepees could be arriving soon.

Camp supporter Robyn Pitawanakwat says a request by the commission to remove Indigenous protesters is an "act of bad faith," given that government officials had agreed to meet with protesters on July 2. 

Robyn Pitawanakwat, a supporter of the Justice for Our Stolen Children camp, says she expects more teepees may be soon erected in front of the legislature grounds, in addition to the nine already on site as of Wednesday afternoon. (CBC News)

"It just seems especially strange that they would be simultaneously trying to push us out of here, while also agreeing to meet with us," she said. 

"I'm not sure where that builds a relationship for us." 

She said Wascana Park is one of the largest urban parks in the country and there should be enough room for everyone. While PCC had said it was forced to make last minute changes to its plans, she said the camp supporters had been on site for months.

"They knew we weren't going to be leaving until the issues had been addressed."

With files from Stephanie Taylor