Saskatchewan

Sask. justice minister says he expects law to be enforced, legislature teepee to come down

One day after a teepee in front of the legislature was re-erected, Justice Minister Don Morgan said he expected police to enforce the rule of law.

Don Morgan says Justice for Our Stolen Children camp cannot continue at legislature grounds

The teepee went back up before 7 p.m. CST on Thursday, which was National Indigenous Peoples Day. (Janani Whitfield/CBC)

One day after a teepee in front of the Saskatchewan Legislature was re-erected, Justice Minister Don Morgan said he expected police to enforce the rule of law, and that the grounds are not intended for overnight camping.

"The facilities just aren't there for that. We expect that the police would take steps to resolve that and they have," he said of the police response on June 18, when the teepee was taken down and six people were arrested for obstruction.

The Justice for our Stolen Children Camp was spurred by the acquittals of Gerald Stanley and Raymond Cormier in the Colten Boushie and Tina Fontaine murder trials, respectively.

Three Regina Police Service officers carry a protester to a police vehicle on June 18. (CBC)

Founders of the camp said the intention was to draw attention to Indigenous lives lost or affected by factors like violence, foster care or addictions.

On Thursday — National Indigenous Peoples Day — the camp was re-erected and it remained standing at the site into Friday.

Morgan said he wouldn't comment on police operations or why they had not dismantled the camp again.

"I would have thought it would have been dealt with now but they've indicated it may not be for a short period of time, and we leave it to them to make those calls."

Police have said they have not taken any enforcement action yet, but are having discussions with all involved parties.  

On National Indigenous Peoples Day, protesters held signs showing pictures of police arriving to dismantle the Justice for Our Stolen Children teepee at the Saskatchewan Legislature grounds. (Eagle from Sakimay First Nation/Justice for Our Stolen Children)

Camp organizers have requested meetings with government officials at the site and in the teepee, but Morgan said it wouldn't be the appropriate site to discuss matters like specific cases of child welfare, even as he committed to having a dialogue with camp organizers.

The legislature and the teepee

Supporters of the camp gathered outside the legislature, with more than one calling attention to the contrasting sights of the legislature and the teepee.

"I don't really see why it's such a big issue to this government and to this authority that this teepee is here," said Chief Nathan Pasap of White Bear First Nations.

"You have a huge building right there behind you, folks — the Saskatchewan Legislature."

Chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Bobby Cameron attended the Justice for Our Stolen Children Camp Friday, calling the teepee our house,' while the government has its own house in the legislature. (CBC News)

The justice reform camp organizers are calling for is sorely needed in the aftermath of the Boushie and Fontaine cases, he said.

"It's sad that such a simple thing, a call out for help, such as a teepee and someone camping in it, is such a wrong in a country as great as Canada, as resource rich as Canada is."

FSIN talks meeting with Moe

Bobby Cameron, chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, was also at the camp, adding his voice in support of First Nations children and calling for them to be able to access good education, care and housing.

"As First Nations people, we will go the distance politically and legally to ensure our First Nations children are protected and that they have the best opportunities in life to succeed," he said.

Cameron noted he and the government have been in contact, and he hoped to arrange a meeting between government officials, including Premier Scott Moe and Morgan, and camp organizers.

Camp not appropriate, says Morgan

Morgan said he would like to narrow down what protesters are asking for and what actions were within a provincial, rather than federal, scope.

When asked if there was a way for both the protesters and the government to find a mutually agreeable compromise, Morgan suggested that a sign or a protest that took place on the sidewalk would be ways for people to exercise their rights in a free and open democracy.

"A camp that doesn't comply is something that just doesn't work."

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