Protesters to keep teepee at INAC office in Regina
Colonialism No More protesters will keep teepee up at Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada office
Protesters outside the Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada office in Regina learned today they will be able to keep the teepee erected at their campsite.
The group has camped on the site for 45 days.
Protester Prescott Demas said the teepee was donated to the group from Ochapowace First Nation, Sask., and officials from INAC said they supported it, but the building's owner wanted it removed from the property.
"They don't want it. They say it interferes with their ability to lease out or to sell property and they're the only ones who seem to be complaining," Demas said Wednesday morning.
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Regina police checked on the camp on Monday when a building operator asked protesters to take it down, but said the request came from the building's representatives and not police.
"We know the teepee's here for another day and that's about all. But it has nothing to do with our meetings with INAC," he said.
'We've had a victory'
Shortly after Demas spoke to CBC, another member of the protest group learned the teepee would stay.
"We've had a victory," said Sue Deranger, emerging from inside the teepee with a phone in her hand. "Now the tepee stays up. More than just today.... It's a great day, it's a great victory, and we've got support."
Deranger said people connected to INAC, the protesters, and the building owners all communicated back and forth after police stopped by on Monday. By Wednesday morning, Deranger learned the teepee could stay.
"I mean, we got support from the owner," Deranger said, adding she was somewhat surprised it changed in a matter of two days.
"I'm so happy that it turned around like that. And it means that eyes are getting open and that Canada is waking up, and that we need justice once and for all."
Protesters say discussions with INAC 'positive'
Meanwhile, the protesters said after six weeks camping on INAC's doorstep, they feel their conversations with government officials are moving in a positive direction.
"I think we're on the right road, anyway," Demas said, referring meetings he said are leading to mutual understanding and agreement. He also mentioned a list of demands the group presented to INAC early in the protest.
"Some of the things on that are on that list were kind of easy; we requested that they open up the door, and [now] they come out and have coffee with us," he said.
But while the group says conversations are going well, Demas and Deranger both said the protesters' list is long and complex, and it deals with longstanding problems including honouring treaties, poverty, water and education levels on reserve, among other things.
"A lot of issues that we have on our demand are long-term. I think we're at least dealing with it and getting that sense that something's going to be done," Demas said.
Deranger added, 'the conversations are going well', but she's not sure whether she can see an end to the protest camp for now.
"I mean, we're working with a bureaucracy and Ottawa runs it. So have we had victories? Maybe, maybe not. That remains to be seen," She said. "But the fact that we're still talking, the fact that we still have the support to be here, the fact that that's going on, that's a victory, but a victory towards what we want, that's going to take a long time."